Backcountry skier urges caution after triggering avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Feb 23, 2024, 9:36 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2024, 11:36 am

Aftermath of an avalanche off of the Wasatch Mountains. (Courtesy: Rob Holmes)...

Aftermath of an avalanche off of the Wasatch Mountains. (Courtesy: Rob Holmes)

(Courtesy: Rob Holmes)

SALT LAKE CITY — A backcountry skier admitted he pressed his luck Friday morning after triggering an avalanche Friday morning in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Rob Holmes said he hiked up Mount Superior and decided to hike up higher than intended.

“I skied it last week, but I wanted to do it one more time and ski a little faster,” he said.

He admitted to looking at the Utah Avalanche Forecast before skiing and knew the slope he picked had a considerable avalanche danger, which means human-trigger avalanches are likely.

Backcountry skier Rob Holmes during a ski trip.

Backcountry skier Rob Holmes during a ski trip. ((Courtesy: Rob Holmes)

“I jumped on onto this slope and started to make a right turn and it all broke out under underneath me. But I was going fast this time, and so I was able to make a left-hand turn and get off of (the slide) before it went down the hill,” Holmes said.

He said he was seconds away from getting caught in the avalanche.

“The thing is, the snowpack doesn’t care if it’s a nice sunny day,” said Greg Gagne with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Gagne said wind coming in from the west has impacted east and southeast-facing slopes, including the one Holmes was skiing.

“In Utah, the data says most avalanche fatalities have occurred when there’s a considerable avalanche danger,” Gagne said.

With considerable avalanche danger in several parts of the state, as we head into the weekend, Gagne is fearful luck will run out.

“Luck is a great strategy In Las Vegas, It’s not a great strategy in avalanche terrain,” Gagne said.

Holmes admitted he ignored the forecast to some degree. He said he hopes other backcountry skiers will take the forecast seriously.

“Every backcountry skier has a different level of risk that they’re wanting to take. And you should be worried. You know, the worry keeps you making hopefully better decisions,” Holmes said.

The Utah Avalanche Center updates the avalanche every day at 7 a.m. You can find the forecast by clicking here.

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Backcountry skier urges caution after triggering avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon