OUTDOORS + RECREATION

One injured in skier-triggered avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Feb 12, 2024, 1:00 PM

Snow covers the mountains during an early season snowstorm in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday,...

FILE - Snow covers the mountains during an early season snowstorm in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A skier-triggered avalanche injured a skier in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday. 

The Utah Avalanche Center website displays reports for 24 avalanches that occurred this weekend. However, the center told KSL TV that nearly 40 avalanches were reported this weekend. Humans triggered many of them. 

According to the Utah Avalanche Center, the skier-triggered avalanche happened on south-facing terrain between Lisa Falls and Jepson’s Folley. 

Witnesses saw the skier triggered avalanche 

A witness said they were skiing with a group when they saw the avalanche, per a report on the UAC’s website. They group saw it happen from the east ridge of Broads Fork Twin Peaks. 

According to the witness’ comments, the injured skier had “followed the track that [their] group of three set to the col between Sunrise Peak and BF Twins,” before the avalanche. A col is the lowest point between two peaks on a mountain.

The skier who wound up injured had never spoken with the groups about their plans.  

A witness said the skier traversed below the path of the group, and was skinning, or climbing up a steep mountainside when the avalanche began. 

The group of witnesses saw the victim during the avalanche, according to the report. 

When the avalanche stopped, one member of the group moved down the mountain to help the victim, per the UAC website.

The skier was able to see the victim and speak with them. The victim requested help and a witness called 911. Emergency responders rescued the injured skier via airlift. 

Persistent weak layers & avalanche

“I fell prey to the restlessness that comes from a long spell of poor snow then stubborn PWL,” said the victim, according to the report on the UAC’s website. 

PWL stands for persistent weak layer, according to UAC. The weak layer can collapse, triggering avalanches. 

Nikki Champion, an avalanche forecaster for UAC, told KSL TV that current conditions make human triggered avalanches likely. 

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

Persistently weak layers are currently contributing to avalanche danger ratings, per the UAC. Danger ratings can be found on their website. 

Related: Ski safety tips to keep you on the slopes

 

 

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One injured in skier-triggered avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon