Search and rescue experts worried about inexperienced skiers in the backcountry

Jan 11, 2024, 6:45 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2024, 7:21 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Salt Lake County search and rescue is preparing for what could be a busy weekend along the Wasatch Front.

“We’re watching the forecast every day,” said Ryan Clerico, vice commander of Salt Lake County Search and Rescue. “This weekend will be a high avalanche hazard condition.”

With double-digit snowfall forecasted for Big and Little Cottonwood canyons and an influx of visitors expected to visit the resorts for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Clerico said the dozens of volunteers that make up the county’s SAR team are prepped and ready to go in the case of an emergency.

“The biggest mistake we see is people underestimating what they’re headed out into,” Clerico said.

Clerico is approaching his 11th year as a volunteer with Salt Lake County search and rescue, and he has helped the team perform hundreds of difficult rescues. In 2023, the team received 65 callouts, totaling nearly 9,200 hours of public service.

“One of the reasons I do SAR is because I get to meet the best people in the world on the worst day of their lives and help them out,” he said.

Ryan Clerico showing the equipment they will use during search and rescues.

Ryan Clerico showing the equipment they will use during search and rescues. (KSL TV)

Clerico said some of the most difficult rescues happen in the winter.

“Winter rescues are much more complicated; if somebody gets injured in the winter, hypothermia is harder, avalanche conditions are harder, everything takes longer and is more challenging for rescue crews,” he said.

Clerico said rescues this weekend could take longer if the team can’t use a helicopter due to weather conditions.

“Something like a simple knee injury in the backcountry may take three hours to get to that person,” he said. “We may have to do everything from the ground.”

Clerico urges outdoor enthusiasts to know the avalanche danger and stay in bounds at the resorts.

“Especially people coming in from out of town, as soon as you duck a rope or you leave a gate from a resort, you’re in the backcountry,” he said.

He said the biggest mistake he sees people make is underestimating the conditions.

“In the winter, that can be life-threatening,” Clerico said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Outdoors & Recreation

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site at the Utah Olympic Oval in Park City....

Shara Park

Utah Olympic Park, Utah Olympic Oval will host Olympic Day Celebrations

If you've ever wanted to try the skeleton, speed skating, or meet some of our Olympic athletes, Friday is the day to do it!

3 days ago

Officials urge Moab residents to prepare for potential flooding starting Friday. (KSL TV)...

Shelby Lofton

Eastern Utah bracing for extreme weather

A tropical storm that flooded parts of Texas is expected to reach Eastern Utah Friday. Officials urge people to protect their homes from potential flooding from extreme weather.

3 days ago

A bridge on two popular hiking trails in Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed June 14 due to extreme...

Shelby Lofton

High runoff causes extreme flooding, bridge damage in Little Cottonwood Canyon trails

A bridge on a popular hiking trail is closed due to extreme flooding and damage.

5 days ago

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said remaining permits for elk and deer hunts this fall wil...

Mark Jones

Remaining elk and deer hunting permits to be sold starting in July

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says remaining permits for elk and deer hunts this fall will be made available for purchase next month.

5 days ago

A reflective monolith found by Vegas Metro Search and Rescue near Gass Peak over the weekend....

Michael Houck and Eliza Pace, KSL TV

A reflective monolith appears in outskirts of Las Vegas

Three years since a mysterious monolith appeared in the Utah wilderness, a new one was found in the mountains near Las Vegas.

6 days ago

Officials at Grand Canyon National Park say a hiker died at the parkon Sunday, June 16, 2024. (Nati...

Mark Jones

Hiker dies at Grand Canyon National Park

Officials at Grand Canyon National park say a hiker died over weekend inside the park.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Search and rescue experts worried about inexperienced skiers in the backcountry