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Video captures snowmobiler's rescue as avalanches take toll in Utah

Published March 7, 2012 10:34 am

Weather • Snowmobiler's body is recovered in Grand County; 3 people buried but survive.
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A series of weekend avalanches killed a snowmobiler, buried three other people and closed a major canyon.

With rapidly warming temperatures, the Utah Avalanche Center declared this weekend that avalanche danger remains high and warned outdoors enthusiasts against venturing into the backcountry.

The reason was clear in Grand County, where search and rescue crews recovered the body of a snowmobiler swept away in a Saturday avalanche in the La Sal Mountains.

Garrett Carothers, 18, of Redvale, Colo., had been snowmobiling with three other people in Beaver Basin, a remote area about 35 miles west of Gateway, Colo., when the avalanche happened, Grand County Sheriff Steve White said. The slide began about 1,000 vertical feet above the snowmobilers and caught Carothers in a narrow stream drainage, according to Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Max Forgensi.

Carothers was not carrying a rescue beacon. Searchers found his snowmobile buried under 12 feet of snow Saturday evening. His body was found Sunday at the same depth about 5 feet away.

But avalanche danger wasn't isolated to Utah's untracked slopes over the weekend.

A snowboarder was partly buried in an avalanche Sunday afternoon at Snowbird ski resort.

The slide occurred about 1:35 p.m. in-bounds on a run known as Blackjack — a west-facing slope that separates Snowbird and Alta, Unified Police Department spokesman Justin Hoyal said. Avalanche control work was done Sunday on the slope, which had been open for three to four hours before the slide.

The 24-year-old man suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, Hoyal said.

"It's extremely rare to have a slide after avalanche control work has been done and after the slope has been well skied on all day, like this slope was," Snowbird spokeswoman Emily Moench said.

Rapidly-warming temperatures following weekend storms likely contributed to the avalanche, which was 2 to 3 feet deep and about 80 feet wide, she said. Nobody else was caught in the slide.

Other avalanches in Little Cottonwood Canyon led authorities to close the canyon road from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hoyal said.

In Summit County, a snowmobiler was swept away in an avalanche he triggered about 2:45 p.m. east of Marion, sheriff's deputies said. The 24-year-old Heber City man was buried under 10 feet of snow after being caught in a slide 200 yards across and 600 to 800 feet long on Drop Doom near Hoyt Peak. His friends quickly uncovered him, even though he was not wearing an avalanche beacon, deputies said. He was not seriously injured.

Yet another skier was caught in an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon, the Utah Avalanche Center reported. The skier was testing a slope Saturday in the western part of Porter Fork when the snow gave way, forecasters wrote. He was buried under 3 feet of snow and was quickly found by his partners. He was able to ski out without assistance.

As of Sunday night, 28 avalanches from Logan Canyon to Moab were reported this weekend to the Utah Avalanche Center. The center warned of high avalanche risk for nearly all Utah mountains.

Backcountry skiers and snowmobilers are advised to stay out of the mountains of northern and central Utah, including the Bear River Range, the Western Uintas and the Wasatch Plateau. Rapid warming and direct sunlight will create dangerous and unstable avalanche conditions, the Utah Avalanche Center warned. Both natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ealberty@sltrib.com Twitter: @erinalberty smcfarland@sltrib.com Twitter: @sheena5427






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