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Man Dies In Avalanche In Park City Area

Utah Avalanche Forecast Center

A Utah man has died after being buried in an avalanche Friday morning. It occurred in back country terrain near the Canyons Village area of Park City Mountain Resort. Tragically, his girlfriend witnessed the slide.

The Summit County Sheriff’s office received a call notifying them of a slide and a possible burial in the avalanche-prone area known as Dutch Draw. Summit County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Andrew Wright earlier in the day confirmed the 31-year-old was buried and there were about three dozen rescue workers who responded to the scene.

“[They] had gone up the 9990 lift and went into the back country. The wife tells our investigators who are here on the scene that he wanted to go, of course back into the back country, and went off into the Dutch Draw area. She described that he triggered an avalanche and watched him get buried.”

Rescue personnel assisted, but they had to do additional control work before it was safe to send anyone else into search for the victim.

“And we are now deploying rescuers via our search and rescue snow cat and snow mobiles. They're taking medical personnel, deputies, and other ski patrol personnel in there to attempt to locate this male. The DPS helicopter does have technologies the Recco technology that basically they have the ability to get a reflection signal off of ski jackets. And its technology that's in a lot of ski jackets and they were able to confirm that they did get a response from that. So, we do believe based off of the firsthand witness of the wife and the technology that we've realized that we do have the male buried under the slide.”

Wright said he did not think either the man or woman had rescue equipment with them, such as shovels, probes, beacons, an avalung, or float pack.

It’s common for people who want to ride in the backcountry in the Park City area, to leave the resort through a gate at the top of the 9990-chair lift. The area is boldly signed with skull and crossbones, warning those who leave the resort that they are doing so at their own risk.

“And so, it would be up to them to determine whether or not those gates are closed. It is outside of the resort. The resort has no responsibility of this terrain. You do leave a safer area and go into the back country with a very straightforward, very blunt sign, that lets you know that there's a very high risk to your life and safety. We don't suggest people go. It seems like we do with this, unfortunately lately, it seems to be on a yearly basis.”

Rescuers, with the help of a Park City Mountain Ski Patrol avalanche dog, located the male at the toe of the avalanche, approximately two feet below the surface. The avalanche was estimated to be 50 feet wide with a 200-foot vertical drop.

The Utah Avalanche Forecast Center has reported a high probability of natural and human-caused slides due to the current snow conditions.  

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