BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — On Saturday afternoon, a skier was reported unconscious after being caught, carried, and buried in an avalanche in the West Bowl of Silver Fork in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
According to the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) preliminary report on the accident, the skier was with a party of eight that initially ascended from Grizzly Gulch in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
The party decided to split in two, with the intention to reunite on the benches below Silver Fork’s West Bowl.
Group A ascended to the top of East Bowl. Group A ascended to East Peak, safely descended the lower-angle terrain, and waited for Group B on a bench below West Bowl.
Group B arrived at East Bowl Pass and headed up Davenport Hill to ski Down and Out into Silver Fork.
Group B descended Down and Out one at a time in pitches. The first skier safely descended the slope on the final ski pitch to join Group A.
While the second skier was midway down the pitch, an avalanche released above them. The party below yelled “Avalanche!” and the skier was able to ski off the slope and away from the avalanche.
However, the final skier at the top of the pitch was caught, carried, and fully buried in the gully.
A party member called 911 at roughly 12:30, and the group worked the debris pile to recover the buried skier.
“After a beacon search and positive probe strike, they extracted the skier and cleared his airway,” the UAC report states.
The victim was buried 6 feet deep, and 23 minutes passed between the time the avalanche was initially triggered and when the airway was cleared.
Five minutes after the skier was recovered, Solitude ski patrol arrived, and the individual was hoisted out in critical but stable condition by a helicopter around 2:30 pm. Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, Snowbird, and Powderbirds all contributed to the rescue.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) briefly shut down traffic on SR-190 around 2:20 pm for the avalanche rescue.
Before the accident, the UAC issued a special bulletin for Saturday, saying, “we are very worried that a serious avalanche accident could occur this weekend.”
SPECIAL AVALANCHE BULLETIN issued for Saturday, March 12. We are very worried that a serious avalanche accident could occur this weekend. pic.twitter.com/pD4cOCr4Fx
— UtahAvalancheCenter (@UACwasatch) March 12, 2022
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that two skiers were buried in the avalanche. Only one skier was buried. A previous version of this article also stated that the avalanche occurred in the East Bowl of Silver Fork. The avalanche occurred in the West Bowl.