Utah Avalanche Center says skier injured in avalanche, conditions are textbook set up for avalanches

Feb 11, 2024, 10:24 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2024, 7:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A backcountry skier was airlifted to a local hospital after triggering an avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon Sunday afternoon, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

In a post-incident report the skier said, “several poor decisions almost killed me today.” The skier suffered serious injuries but is expect to be OK. A group, unassociated with the skier, witnessed the avalanche and tried to help.

The human-caused avalanche took place in the Lisa Falls area of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Chopper 5 spotted search and rescue crews in the area.

A backcountry skier was airlifted to a local hospital after triggering an avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon Sunday afternoon, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. (KSL TV)

“All of these significant avalanches should serve as a warning sign that we just have a kind of textbook setup for another avalanche accident,” said Nikki Champion, an avalanche forecaster.

Champion said over the last 10 days the upper Cottonwoods have accumulated 4 to 6 feet of snow.

“We have this persistent weak layer to this weak layer faceted ground, the ground from early season snow,” she said. “If you add a lot of weight or change or load, it tends to stress it out and overload it.”

Champion said there was a lot of avalanche activity over the weekend, with more than 30 sightings reported to forecasters in the Salt Lake City area alone.

“It’s not like you’re going to trigger (an avalanche) on every single slope across the board. But if you do trigger one, it’s going to be a really deep, a really deadly and a really consequential avalanche,” Champion said.

Champion said with sunny skies in the forecast, the weather might be misleading for some. Avalanche terrain should be avoided, but Champion said skiers going towards the backcountry can ride on low-angled slopes.

“We really want people to return home. So with the clear skies, just continue to make conservative decisions,” she said. “Just give it a little bit more time. We’re trending in the right direction.”

For more information on the Utah Avalanche Center and their updated forecasts, click here.

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Utah Avalanche Center says skier injured in avalanche, conditions are textbook set up for avalanches