Snowmobile association urges safety in the backcountry after two fatal crashes

Jan 18, 2024, 6:23 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2024, 6:02 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Two deadly crashes are now under investigation in Wasatch County, each one taking the life of a snowmobiler.

It’s worth reminding people to be prepared and know what to expect before hitting the backcountry. We know accidents can happen, but having two very tragic ones so close together can be sobering, to say the least.

Sara Smith, 51, died in the latest crash on Wednesday when deputies said she lost control and hit a tree near Daniels Summit Lodge outside of Heber City.

The Utah Highway Patrol is looking into another accident on Sunday, where they say 44-year-old Chris Brown, of Farmington, was struck by a semi while trying to cross U.S. Highway 40 near Strawberry Reservoir.

Snowmobiler dead after being hit by semitruck on US 40

“First and foremost, we want to send our condolences to the families,” said Missy Elardi, president of the Utah Snowmobile Association.

Snowmobiling can be an extremely fun sport, but Elardi emphasized that it’s also an extreme sport, and you need to have the proper education behind it.

She said it’s always important to go prepared with avalanche gear, at the very least a shovel, probe and beacon, and to wear layered clothing.

“And then just knowing where you’re going, having a mapping system, having buddies,” Elardi said. “Don’t ever go out and ride snowmobiles alone.”

She also stressed the importance of good communication and riding with experienced people. Remember to stay to the right of the trail and avoid following too closely. She also points out that it may take extra effort to see what’s going on around you with a helmet on, especially in bad weather conditions.

“You’ve got a helmet on and so that’s covering everything except for your vision here,” she demonstrated. “So if it’s snowing, if it’s blowing snow, if it’s windy, depending on the conditions, it could be hard to see what traffic’s coming.”

The Utah Snowmobile Association is there to help snowmobilers work with different organizations that handle the trails and help educate people on the sport. The association has more detailed recommendations for safety here.

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Snowmobile association urges safety in the backcountry after two fatal crashes