WEATHER

Utah Avalanche Center Meets Backcountry Skiers In Person To Warn Of Avalanche Danger

Feb 13, 2021, 5:51 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2022, 8:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center was out at Big Cottonwood Canyon to answer questions about avalanche danger and instruct backcountry skiers on how to use their safety equipment.

Crews said after the deadly avalanche in Millcreek, they figured being out and visible would keep everyone thinking of safety.

It’s easier to get someone’s attention when you offer them free snacks, which is why Christian Reguse had no problem talking to people Saturday morning.

“Grab a cookie on your way out,” he said to people putting on their snow boots in Big Cottonwood Canyon. “Take a donut. They’re homemade at Smith’s.”

Reguse works with the Utah Avalanche Center and was part of a team of avalanche experts who set up an informational booth at the Spruces Campground — a popular launching spot for backcountry skiers to reach trails.

Since avalanche conditions are dangerous in the Wasatch Mountains, the Avalanche Center figured it would be good to let skiers know what conditions were like.

“We are spreading awareness of avalanche danger,” said Reguse. “Today, the danger is considerable.”

A big part of the problem was a snowstorm moving through the area that brought heavy, wet snow with it. That snow is falling on top of weaker layers that could cause a slide if triggered.

“As we add more weight to the top, some of the weaker layers underneath are what we are most concerned with,” said Reguse.

Four people died in Utah last weekend in an avalanche, and more deaths before that this year, the Utah Avalanche Center wanted to remind skiers of the danger as well as show them how to use their safety equipment.

That information could help save a life.

“We’re pretty lucky to have these guys out here telling us the conditions, telling us what to avoid and what elevations we should be careful of,” said Kirk Hietpas, who was heading into the backcountry to ski with a friend.

The Utah Avalanche Center said they are planning on visiting other popular backcountry trailheads to spread awareness as much as possible.

Forecasters and avalanche experts just want everybody to have fun, but be aware of conditions, so they can make it back safe.

“Yeah, have a good day,” said Reguse to some skiers.

He knows the snacks are an easy way to get people to stop for a minute and think about safety.

“We just want to make sure people know what’s going on up there,” he said.

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Utah Avalanche Center Meets Backcountry Skiers In Person To Warn Of Avalanche Danger