Skiers identified in Lone Peak avalanche; accident occurred during skiers ascent

Updated at 5:53 p.m.

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah –Two skiers, Andrew Cameron, 23, from Utah, and Austin Mallet, 32, from Montana, have been identified as the victims in the avalanche that occurred on Lone Peak in Little Cottonwood Canyon May 9. The surviving skier has not yet been named.

Initial reports of a dog accompanying the group have not been confirmed.

Unified police announced search and rescue crews began the recovery effort at about 7 a.m. Friday. The victims, ages 23 and 32, were buried Thursday morning at approximately 10:15 a.m. A third man was partially buried but was able to dig himself out and call 911 for help.

“We were able to get in and out quickly,” Alan Bergstom, a squad leader on the recovery team, said.

Bergstrom said crews took advantage of a good weather window and that near the end of the operation this morning winds were picking up again.

The two victims were found buried at least three feet deep in the avalanche debris, Bergstom said.

On its website, the Utah Avalanche Center stated, “They had switched from skiing to boot packing and were near the top when the avalanche occurred.”

“The person in the lead was caught and carried downhill on the looker’s right side of a ridge or fin of rock. That person was partially buried and was able to self-extricate. The other two were caught and carried downhill on the looker’s left side of the ridge feature. Those two were fully buried and unfortunately did not survive.”

The Utah Avalanche Center says the slide occurred at an elevation of 10,600 feet. It was 500 feet long, 250 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

A rescue helicopter at the site of the Lone Peak avalanche that killed two.(Photo: Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue)

The attempt to recover the bodies of the victims Thursday afternoon was halted when rain, snow and strong winds moved in to the area and made it unsafe to continue.

“Long term PTSD affects us all,” Bergstrom said when questioned about the mental toll such a rescue and recovery effort takes on rescue personnel. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years and if you wait to long, you pay the price and eventually you have to deal with it.”

Officials urged backcountry skiers to use the utmost caution when heading out into the mountains this spring. The Utah Avalanche Center stopped forecasting on May 1 this year, cautioning enthusiasts on the main spring dangers in the backcountry, including wet snow, new snow and wind-drifted snow.

According to a study by the American Avalanche Association chances of surviving an avalanche are 92% if you are extricated within 15 minutes. Chances of survival go down to 37% after 35 minutes of burial time. Putting this into perspective, the chances of death go up about 3% per minute after 15 minutes of burial time. Between 5-25% of avalanche fatalities are the result of trauma, 1% are the result are due to hypothermia and the remainder of deaths are caused by asphyxiation.

The last avalanche fatality in Utah was on April 17, 2023 at Brighton, according to a Utah Avalanche Center record.

This story will be updated.

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