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Huge avalanche at Canyons - 15 missing

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 79
Amazing. I skied past the fences in that area last March. Great snow in there. Hopefully no one got killed. I thought they were more proactive in avalanche at Canyons.
post #3 of 79
i just went to the web site of the cbs station, they have/ had live covereg on the net
www.kutv.com
post #4 of 79
I heard about it on fox news; they said something like 15 people may have been injured?
post #5 of 79
From the Denver Channel:


It looks like someone took a knife and cut through the side of the mountain," Jill Atwood, a reporter who was skiing at the resort, told CNN.

She said the slide is 300 to 500 yards wide. She also said there were earlier reports that as many as 15 skiers might have been trapped. Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds discounted that report. "That is erroneous," he said.

"We can only confirm one, perhaps two (trapped skiers) at this point," he said.
post #6 of 79
The Sherriff's office on the radio just said 300 yards wide and 16 ft deep. Uh..16 feet?
post #7 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
I skied past the fences in that area last March. I thought they were more proactive in avalanche at Canyons.
Hopefully when you look at these two statements side by side something will jump out at you.
post #8 of 79
This is tragic. I have a pit in my stomach. It occurred out of bounds in the area near the 9990 lift. No gate to go thru here. There have been many avalanche warnings in the past few days. No one should be placing any blame here. Our prayers are more appropriate.
post #9 of 79
I skied there today! I sort of see it happen... Very sad... My heart was beating so hard...
post #10 of 79
The Little Cottonwood Canyon up to Alta/Bird was closed a few days ago due to avalanche work. Avalanche controll is happening all over Wasach Mnts. I skied Snowbasin yesterday so I hit the Canyons today. Scary stuff, esp. coming from the East Coast.
post #11 of 79
The rescue and/or recovery has been called off for the night. Sheriff Edmunds has reported that it is too dangerous to contine. Efforts will resume tomorrow morning at 7:00am. Number of victims still unknown. Those interested can stay tuned at www.kutv.com
post #12 of 79
Initial reports were over the top. In bounds, 16 people lost, totally crazy rumours floating around. It was dutches, one person missing. Here is a much more accurate story:

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_2525143

"Edmunds quickly discounted the report of some television outlets that reported up to 15 people had been trapped in the slide. "That is erroneous," he said.

Got a number of calls to make sure that _I_ wasn't on the mountain. Anyway, no way in hell I'd be skiing out of bounds (esp. Dutch's) today. A family friend even called my mother-in-law... As Canyons said, now is probably not the time to lay blame, but you'd have to be not taking your life (and those of your rescuers) very seriously be out there today. I guess people see other people's tracks and assume its safe. Sad.
post #13 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by L7
Hopefully when you look at these two statements side by side something will jump out at you.
No doubt.
post #14 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lodro
Initial reports were over the top ...
This seems to be a theme this week ...
post #15 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by L7
Hopefully when you look at these two statements side by side something will jump out at you.
I don't intend to diminish the seriousness of what happened with five currently reported missing with recovery operations ongoing. As to my own experience in that area, this is "out of bounds" backcountry frequently opened to skiers. On the day I was there, it was open via a gate that was accessible by boot-packing about 100 yards up a slope near the 1099 lift. To avoid the boot pack, we crossed over a plastic snow fence skiing the south flank into the draw. I was with two companions including an experienced local backcountry teleskier, and had a beacon attached to the strap of my backpack. There was no sloughing, and conditions were well bonded knee deep powder on well consolidated spring base with no apparent slab or windblown buildup. This area is frequently and legally entered by skiers, and given the wide open nature of the bowl and its immediate proximity to the lifts, I understand why people were in the area. Unlike my day in the area, it was clearly closed.

Many resort areas I go to have "out of bounds" skiing accessible through gates. While the area is officially out of bounds, when conditions are relatively safe, entry is through gates that provide warnings and encourage appropriate backcountry knowledge and equipment. The area that avalanched was clearly closed and marked with skull and crossbones warnings. I would not have been in the closed area, and you would be wrong to assume I am unaware of backcountry or out of bounds protocols.

My earlier comment was, I thought the area was more proactive in avalanche control. The magnatude of this release was so great it threatened inbounds areas. To clarify, I was surprised it was not under routine management.
post #16 of 79
I'm not making assumptions of your knowledge or even judgement which seems reasonable. The point is the proactive part of the resorts avie management is the signage and fencelines. I don't know how it works there but here where the areas abut national parks the resort management has no right to go into those areas to do control work. Their hands are effectively tied in that regard. I understand the out of bounds area in question here is national forest or some other sort of public land and would assume the resort is in a similar situation of having no control other than offering the warnings.

What I was pointing out was your statement of passing fences and the following statement implying the resort was somehow deficient in their control or responsibility. I made that post before I saw pictures of the signage which seems direct and extensive to say the least. The resort likely isn't too happy that this slide reached as far as some of their terrain and maybe this event will somehow be enough to allow them access to control that terrain. I doubt that they previously had that option.
post #17 of 79
I urge all interested parties to go to the msnbc link above (posted by oboe). There is a link to an interview of Sheriff Edmunds that ocurred this morning that is very informative. The bottom line is that there is a reason why certain areas are out of bounds. The avalanche control authorities know what they are doing. No matter how much experience an athlete possesses, there are times when conditions warrant just letting things alone. Better to ski safe, and ski another day, then to place your life, and the lives of others, in harm's way!
My prayers are with the families of the victims of this tragedy.
post #18 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
I was with two companions including an experienced local backcountry teleskier, and had a beacon attached to the strap of my backpack.
Just curious -- Is that how you normally wear a beacon? Attached to the strap of your backpack?
post #19 of 79
Lets make some things clear so we can stop the nonsense.
First Before going out-of-bounds one should have knowledge and equipment (and also have to know how to use it- NEVER EVER have a transciever strapped anywhere else but against your torso, a backpack can be easily ripped off your body. The transceiver will help rescue A body. Wether the person will be alive or not is another issue).
Second, check the avalanche report beforehand and talk to the local patrol. If the score says Low risk, that does not gurantee that an avalanche would not happen. THERE IS NO WAY TO PREDICT! It is just a risk assessment score.
Fourth, the resorts DO NOT have to control the backcountry.

So there is no one to blame but the skiers. And that is how it should always be. Everytime one steps beyond the boundaries, it is no one else's reponsability.

For those wanting to go out-of-bounds contact your ski patrol and take a level 1 avalanche course. Bring your buddies with you for the course. Learn how to use your gear well. Be responsible and never go out alone. Make sure your buddies have the right gear (they will be digging you out)
After the major dumps of last week and the unusual changes in temperature, just an idiot would go into the backcountry.
post #20 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces
Just curious -- Is that how you normally wear a beacon? Attached to the strap of your backpack?
In an avalanche it would get torn off. The pack, beacon and skier would probably end up in three different places. Or course you know and everyone who has used a tranceiver knows to keep it inside jacket.
post #21 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15
In an avalanche it would get torn off. The pack, beacon and skier would probably end up in three different places. Or course you know and everyone who has used a tranceiver knows to keep it inside jacket.
that's exactly why I asked. especially since Cirquerider said he was traveling with an experienced backcountry skier......

In any event, this is such a tragic event. My thoughts go out to all those affected.
post #22 of 79
Thanks Oboe for posting the link. Canyons nice post,
Criquerider, Straping a beacon to your backpack is a good way to have the Recovery people find your Pack. I'm sure your loved ones would be happy to get that back in a timly manor. As for your body don't worry you can have Funeral in June when they recover your Body.
The warning signs are up there all the time. The Area isn't closed you enter at your own risk. Utah Avalanche has been warning people to stay out of the back country. The Canyons can not stop you from useing gates. They in no way have any responsablity to do Avalanche control in that area. It is The back country, You are there at your own risk. The past few years have been low snow years. Here in Utah there has been very littel Avalanche activity to speak of. Many Back country skiers snowmobilers who started thier backcounty adventures in the past few years have not seen conditions like this. Please peoplebe sane and be safe. I fear the death toll this year is going to nbe very bad. My Prayers are with the friends and families of those That were lost.
post #23 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by nando
Lets make some things clear so we can stop the nonsense.
First Before going out-of-bounds one should have knowledge and equipment (and also have to know how to use it- NEVER EVER have a transciever strapped anywhere else but against your torso, a backpack can be easily ripped off your body. The transceiver will help rescue A body. Wether the person will be alive or not is another issue).
Second, check the avalanche report beforehand and talk to the local patrol. If the score says Low risk, that does not gurantee that an avalanche would not happen. THERE IS NO WAY TO PREDICT! It is just a risk assessment score.
Fourth, the resorts DO NOT have to control the backcountry.

So there is no one to blame but the skiers. And that is how it should always be. Everytime one steps beyond the boundaries, it is no one else's reponsability.

For those wanting to go out-of-bounds contact your ski patrol and take a level 1 avalanche course. Bring your buddies with you for the course. Learn how to use your gear well. Be responsible and never go out alone. Make sure your buddies have the right gear (they will be digging you out)
After the major dumps of last week and the unusual changes in temperature, just an idiot would go into the backcountry.
Well put, Nando.

This kind of thing is just heartbreaking because the victims are often (not always) relative newcomers who see tracks on a nearby, easily accessible slope. They often just don't understand all the things that can go wrong. Lives are ended, families are devastated, rescuers are put in jeopardy.

There have been numerous fatalities just beyond the boundaries of The Canyons in the last few years. We won't know much more about this incident until the victims (God willing, there actually *aren't* any victims but it doesn't look that way right now) are found and their stories are pieced together.

The takeaway from this and other incidents should be a warning for those of you visiting some of these ski resorts:

* If you don't have the gear, don't go through the gates.

* If you don't have the knowledge to use the gear - fast and well - don't go through the gates.

* If you don't have partners whom you *literally* would trust with your life, don't go through the gates.

* If you don't know how to travel and ski in avalanche terrain in such a way that you isolate the risk to one skier at a time, don't go through the gates.

* If you don't have any knowledge of the recent snowpack and what it's been doing, don't go through the gates.

* If you haven't heard or read the morning's avalanche report, don't go through the gates.

Following is the Wasatch Avalanche Report from the morning of the incident. The second paragraph should be an enormous red flag to anyone contemplating skiing a slope like the one that released:
Avalanche Conditions:

Large and deadly avalanches continued to release early Thursday morning. Activity included at least four large natural avalanches, two avalanches from helicopter skiing test explosives (photo), and a hand full of slides from resort control work. All of these had a 3-5’ fracture line depths with the largest in West Monitor (photo) up to 9 feet deep in one section of the crown face. One of these natural avlanches released in skier compacted terrain at one of the local ski areas. These all released due to added weight from wind transported snow over the last 48 hours. The avalanche activity is widespread enough to make most avalanche professionals nervous.

I would expect the activity to slow down today but my own personal pucker factor will not let me toy with any steeper slopes until the avalanche activity stops. I spoke to many people yesterday that agreed that the snowpack is gaining strength but not one of them would consider getting on the big slopes yet. It’s like playing with an armed nuclear bomb. You can probably keep it from exploding but do you want to take the chance.

The report from the day before was even scarier. Hindsight is always perfect, but people should not have been on a slope like that given the avalanche forecast.

For those of you who don't have much experience with avalanche reports, some of the terms that LEAP off the page are "large and deadly", "at least four large natural avalanches", "natural avalanches in skier-compacted terrain", "make avalanche professionals nervous", and "not one of them would consider getting on big slopes yet".

Sorry for the lecture, but when you've seen firsthand the grief and upheaval caused by a fatal avalanche, it's hard not to climb on the soapbox.

Bob
post #24 of 79

So so sad, may they rest in peace.

Here's a more detailed news account:

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_2526200

I'm guessing what slid is east of what is named "Silver 10006" on the topo:
http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=12...83&layer=DRG25

Just looking at the topo terrain in that cirque would be enough to keep most savvy backcountry users away from that area during dangerous periods even if they were not familliar with the area. Much much slopes at critical avalanche gradients.

Of course many US resorts have begun to open up boundaries allowing access to backcountry. Thus increasing numbers of inexperienced people are starting to farm out of bounds slopes in the holy quest for fresh powder. Each time such tragedies occur, it is more likely restrictions to access may follow. Unfortunately it is predictable that such tragedies will only increase in the coming years. There are simply too many individuals who on their own initiative lack the personality and character to educate themselves as to what is safe. Thus there is a need for the community of experienced users to become more serious in impressing on others as to what is and isn't safe in order to provide insentive to become bc educated.
post #25 of 79
Heres what the salt lake trib is reporting this am


Link To Article Print Article Email Article
Article Last Updated: 01/15/2005 12:54:46 PM

Killer slide
Two to five people are missing, presumed dead
By Justin Hill
and Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune



PARK CITY - A huge, dense avalanche claimed between two and five people on a steep bowl just outside The Canyons ski resort Friday, officials said. No bodies were recovered from the slide, which came after two weeks of extreme avalanche warnings.
The avalanche broke near a ridgeline above Dutch's Draw, just south of the resort's boundaries, in the early afternoon on a bright, unseasonably warm day. The slide, as much as 500 yards wide at the top and half a mile long, was about 30 feet deep at its toe, or stopping point, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said during a news conference Friday.

Sheriff's dispatchers received a cell phone call at 12:57 p.m. from a man who reported that a "massive avalanche had swept away a person he was skiing with," according to a news release. The victim's name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Investigators talked to several witnesses, Edmunds said, and their information led to the approximate number of victims. There were conflicting reports on whether those people were skiing or snowboarding.
Searchers found no trace of the possible victims, and the danger and depth of the slide meant there is a "strong possibility we won't have [solid] numbers for some time," Edmunds said.
Devon Aubrey, a Canyons employee, said the resort's ski patrol had said on their radios that a group of six people had triggered the slide, but Edmunds said he could not confirm that.
Gazing up from his post, lift attendant Rob Bennion said it looked like the avalanche "took down the whole side of the mountain."
Searchers and their dogs were to return to the mountain early today.
Edmunds said Friday's victims rode the resort's Ninety-Nine-90 chairlift and entered Dutch's Draw through a gate emblazoned with a skull and crossbones and warnings about the danger of leaving the safety of the resort for snowfields not subject to avalanche control.
"When you go out of bounds of any ski resort, you're on your own," Edmunds said. "These are people who were reckless."
Bruce Tremper, director of the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, said two weeks of heavy storms that dropped 6 to 8 feet of heavy, dense snow, combined with unseasonably warm weather and wind, created a huge potential for avalanches. The center, he said, has been issuing avalanche warnings "for about as long a period as I can remember."
"It is the same combination of factors that causes most avalanches; a pre-existing weak layer of snow with a huge slab of snow on top of it," Tremper said. "This last storm was like trying to park an Oldsmobile on top of a bag of potato chips."
He also said that the slide could have occurred naturally, but pointed out that 90 percent of avalanches are triggered by victims or their companions.
Dutch's Draw, he said, is "a very dangerous area and it always has been. It's a very steep, very large and very dangerous area which happens to be right next to a ski area. A lot of people leave the ski area boundaries and go there. They have to pass a gate that tells you in no uncertain terms what you're getting into.
"Ninety-five percent of the time it's perfectly safe to do, and the rest of the time it's not," he said.
Tyson Schwab was near the Ninety-nine-90 lift just north of Dutch's Draw when he heard a thump and a rumble and turned to witness the avalanche. "All you could see was white and mist," he said. "It was like a fog just rolled in."
From KUTV-Channel 2's helicopter, searchers and dogs could be seen slogging through the slide, the tips of pine trees poking through the snow. Edmunds said the searchers were spending the evening fashioning probes 10 feet longer than the standard 20 feet.
Dean Cardinale of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue and the Snowbird Ski Patrol, said dogs from at least six Wasatch Front ski resorts had been called in, and Wasatch Powder Guides flew teams to The Canyons from Snowbird and Alta, where another backcountry avalanche was reported. Officials flew over that slide and declared it clear, he said.
Before the searchers took to the mountain, he said, other helicopters dropped explosive charges to release any remaining dangerous snow.
"The number one concern is the safety of the rescuers," Cardinale said. "They were not involved in the decision the people were making to be in that area at that time. We can't complicate the rescue with the possibility of another slide hitting the rescue team."
Edmunds also implored outdoor enthusiasts to stay out of the back country in Summit County because all of his resources are focused on the avalanche.
"You are coming into some very perilous country," he said. "We are asking you not to come in."
This isn't the first time a deadly snow slide has struck in the area. In January 2000, Greg and Loren Mackay, who lived in the nearby Snyderville Basin, died in an avalanche below Square Top Mountain, another out of bounds area also accessible from the Ninety-Nine-90 chairlift. The next winter, Sharon Reinfurt also died below Square Top while on a family vacation from New Hampshire.
The Canyons reopens for business today.
Brent Harkins, 17, of Lake Forest, Ill., said he and a friend would be skiing today and Sunday and would ride Ninety-nine-90. He said they had considered going off resort runs, but "that's out of our heads now."
post #26 of 79
this is what the Park Record in Park City has to say. Theres a pic in the story of the slide.
www.parkrecord.com
post #27 of 79
Bob thanks for your support. One other thing left behind: Even if the score for that day is low risk, don't forget to considered the reports for the previous weeks. If o week or two bfore the situation was bad (just what happened in Utah), think twice before going out. Also remeber that at the begining of the season, the pack is more unstable. Timing is EVeRYTHING when skiing the backcountry.
post #28 of 79
May i add,
If your not sure of the backcountry, ski with some one who knows exactly what they are doing. Read the avalanch reports, look at the conditons,, your life isn't worth it
post #29 of 79
there are good reasons why backcountry guides are nazis about reading the snow conditions. historical studies of snow types and layers have shown them what conditions are ripe for avalanche.

frankly, I consider someone who skis known slide-prone backcountry without proper training AND proper equipment to be equivalent to someone who decides to take up whitewater kayaking by "teaching himself" on a highly technical Class V stream.
post #30 of 79
Bob & Nando, right on. That area is well known as avy prone. Not a single aquaintance that I talked to has been willing to go out there (or just about anywhere in the Wasatch) right now. Sorry to say it, but these people clearly didn't know what they were doing. Once again, Darwin proves his point.

Powdr

PS. to whomever straps a beacon to his backpack: hope your never in my touring party.
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