Search and rescue team member unhurt after being buried in avalanche

February 2, 2013

MONTE CRISTO — A member of the Weber County Search and Rescue Team escaped without injury after being buried in an avalanche Friday morning near Whiskey Hill in the Monte Cristo area.

The incident happened about 11 a.m., said Weber County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brandon Toll.

The name of the volunteer search and rescue team member was not released.

He was on a snowmobile going down a bobsled run on patrol and was at the bottom of a gully, Toll said.

The man looked up the hill, saw a crack, and the snow started breaking and coming down toward him.

He tried to outrun the avalanche on the snowmobile, but was buried in about 4 feet of snow. He was thrown from the snowmobile, which was found about 10 feet under the snow.

Other search and rescue team members were following and saw the avalanche happen, Toll said.

They immediately turned their rescue beacons to search in order to receive the signal from the buried team member.

They narrowed down the team member’s location to a small area and used avalanche probes to find him under the snow. The buried team member grabbed one of the probes that passed by his hand.

“He grabbed on to it and held on to it until they dug him out,” Toll said.

The team member was buried for about four minutes and was uninjured.

The avalanche measured about 100 yards wide and about 150 yards long. The top of the avalanche, which is known as the crown, was about 4 feet tall.

The avalanche was a result of wind pushing snow from one area to another, which made the upper portion heavy, weakening the slab of snow from the bottom and causing the slide, Toll said.

A total of 19 search and rescue members, as well as several other people, assisted with the rescue effort.

The Utah Avalanche Center said there currently is “considerable” avalanche danger in mountain areas near Ogden.

Individuals should stay off of, and out from underneath, slopes steeper than about 33 degrees on all aspects and elevations, according to the center.

It’s best to wait for the snow to stabilize for at least another day. Some avalanches will be difficult to trigger, but they will be large and dangerous.

Snowmobilers can find safe riding conditions on most slopes less steep than 30 degrees that are not locally connected to steeper terrain.