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2 skiers found dead, 1 rescued after backcountry avalanche in Utah

The avalanche happened at Lone Peak Summit in Utah, a popular area for recreationists.
Lone Peak and surrounding landscape
Posted at 4:23 PM, May 09, 2024

Two skiers have been found dead and one was rescued after an avalanche Thursday in the area of Lone Peak Summit near Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

While the skiers killed were not identified by name, their ages were 32 years old and 23 years old. Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said one was from Utah, while the other was from out of state.

The bodies of the skiers are still on the mountain and officials hope to bring them down when conditions improve Friday. Rivera said it took the men five hours to reach the location where they were discovered, showing how remote they were.

The rescued skier was taken to the hospital after he was able to dig himself out of the snow and was lifted off the mountain by helicopter. Video showed him limping towards an ambulance after the rescue, and he was transported in fair condition.

Helicopter brings in person video

According to Craig Gordon with the Utah Avalanche Center, the rescued man said the entire group were very experienced backcountry skiers and were properly equipped.

The area is popular with recreationists in Little Cottonwood Canyon, officials told Scripps News Salt Lake City.

Gordon explained the area is extremely challenging and called the avalanche "unusual" for this time of year.

"This is very serious terrain, it's steep, it's North-facing," he explained. "The crew that was up there would have to be experienced. This isn't the type of zone you'd just stumble on."

Gordon detailed that the group had all the right gear but things went wrong, resulting in an avalanche several feet deep and a couple hundred feet wide.

"My heart is very heavy for this group that loves the snow and loves the mountains as much as I do," Gordon said.

Unified Fire Authority, backcountry search and rescue crews, Sandy officials and Draper Fire crews all assisted in the response.

The avalanche comes on the heels of a late-season storm that brought several feet of dense, heavy snow to Utah's mountains.

"The past three days, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon have seen over 30 inches of snow with over three inches of water," Gordon said, adding that the storm was a "game-changer" and "definitely elevated" backcountry avalanche danger.

This story was originally published by Melanie Porter at Scripps News Salt Lake City.