Little Cottonwood Canyon Reopens Following Morning Avalanche

Jan 12, 2020, 11:35 AM | Updated: 11:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed after an avalanche swept through the area and pushed a vehicle off the roadway.

State Route 210 reopened to both directions of traffic around 2 p.m. Sunday and Utah Department of Transportation officials said some delays are possible in the area.

Officials from the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake said the vehicle was partially buried, but no one inside was hurt.

The avalanche happened in the White Pine area Sunday morning, with traffic backed up as drivers were trying to get up the canyon and to the ski resorts.

Snow two to three feet deep was covering about 300 feet of the road.

“There was about a foot and a half of debris on the road with the slide,” said Shawn Lambert with UDOT.

Drivers were asked to turn around and leave the area at the mouth of the canyon while crews cleared the snow and pulled the vehicle back onto the roadway.

Brothers Sam and Pete Pelletier witnessed the avalanche and said they braced themselves for the worst.

“My heart started pounding and we immediately braced ourselves for the unknown,” Pete said.

The brothers were driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon around 10:30 a.m. Sunday when the slide hit the SUV two cars ahead of them.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge snow cloud and immediately knew that it was an avalanche coming down,” Sam said.

As the snow settled, they noticed the vehicle partially buried by the avalanche.

“There were people within seconds a lot of people that came right around the scene and was making sure everybody was OK,” Pete said.

The five people in that vehicle were shaken up, but no one was injured. UDOT crews then worked for several hours to clear the snow and reopen the canyon.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Lambert said. “Little Cottonwood Canyon is well known as one of the most challenging roads to maintain in the world to maintain when it comes to avalanche mitigation.  They are working hard to keep it safe for the general public.”

Avalanche danger is still high for the Wasatch Mountains and crews will close both Cottonwood canyons Monday morning for avalanche control work.

As for the Pelletier brothers, they said they learned a lesson Sunday.

“No matter how well you prepare, it’s mother nature, anything can happen and you just have to always plan for the worst,” Pete said.

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Little Cottonwood Canyon Reopens Following Morning Avalanche