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Officials say man buried in Park City avalanche has died

PARK CITY, Utah — Summit County officials have announced via Twitter that the  31-year-old man from Clinton, Utah, who was buried in an avalanche near Park City has died. 

 

Search and rescue teams responded after the avalanche was reported around 11 a.m. Friday in the backcountry outside Park City Mountain. County Sheriff Justin Martinez confirmed the response of search and rescue and air support on the scene shortly after the area was secured.

Avalanche occurs outside Park City Mountain boundaries

Officials believe the avalanche buried or swept the missing person somewhere in the Dutch Draw area, a backcountry skiing location that separates Big Cottonwood Canyon from the Park City area. It’s not clear whether he was skiing or snowboarding. 

“Any time you’re headed into the backcountry, you need to be prepared for your own rescue,” said Craig Gordon, forecaster and media coordinator for Utah Avalanche center. “As is always the case, the best avalanche is the one we don’t trigger. Avalanche avoidance is paramount.”

Although there hasn’t been much snowfall from Tuesday night, Gordon said it was just enough “to keep things teetering on the edge.” The area experienced several other close calls earlier this week, he said.

Rescuers hoped for a good outcome in Friday’s search. But, according to Gordon, when rescuers wind up “this deep” in the search for skiers buried underneath avalanches, the situation rarely ends well.

Dutch Draw popular with skiers

Dutch Draw is a common area for avalanches. This might be because the snowfall looks safe, giving a false sense of security, Gordon said.

However, as skiers travel through they can set off any of the several dangerous backcountry conditions, triggering an avalanche. 

More skiers and snowboarders may look to the backcountry to avoid large crowds at resorts during the coronavirus pandemic. But Gordon said they need to educate themselves on avalanche rescue before heading out. 

“There’s a lot more people going into the backcountry,” he said. “If you’re headed into the backcountry you need to prepared.” 

This includes knowing the current avalanche forecast, preparing for your own rescue and completing basic avalanche-awareness education. 

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