View Full Version : Avalanche near Oakley kills man

12-25-2007, 07:50 PM
Full story: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=2383939

Scott Card
12-26-2007, 03:49 PM
This is a really sad deal. I wonder if snowmobilers think less about avalanches than do skiers or snowshoers. Seems to me there is a disconnnect to the conditions when you are riding on the snow at light speed on a snowmobile than when you are feeling your way foot by foot on snowshoes or skis. Just an impression and I may be wrong but it seems that avalanche warnings are a bigger deal to those back country skiers and snowshoers than for snowmobilers.

12-27-2007, 07:29 AM
thats quite a blanket statement Scott.

Since about 1997 snowmobiles have had the ability to go most places in the backcountry, I will admit from then until maybe 2002 +/- we were bad at having adequate avalanche knowledge.
Since that time myself and those I ride with are required to carry a beacon,probe,shovel, if you don't have these your're not welcome in the group. Most all monitor Bret Koberniks(sp) avalanche website and I get daily updates in my e-mail as to avalanche conditions.
Most in Utah who ride the backcountry know someone or know of someone who has been killed by an avalanche. We dig pits and study slopes and if things don't look good our moto is live to ride another day!

If you were to get updates from the avalanche centerhttp://www.avalanche.org/~uac/
you would see that on almost a daily basis there are skiers who get caught up in avalanches, it seems though that snowmobiles do release larger slides. Please subscribe to their e-mail service then in a couple months tell me who triggers more. That way you will have facts to back up your blanket statements.

12-27-2007, 09:59 AM

a little archived info--

Just cause you don't hear it on channel 5 -- doesn't mean it doesn't happen. There are hundreds of Utah avalanches that occur. Only the fatality's make the news.

Theres room for all to improve.

12-27-2007, 10:04 AM
or if your just interested in the current snow years stats--

sorry to cloud the issue with documented facts.

Scott Card
12-27-2007, 11:13 AM
thats quite a blanket statement Scott.

I understood that when I wrote it. It wasn't meant as a slam but more as a question. But I wrote it because of those I have gone with and those I hear talking. Nar'ye a word about avalanche safety. I am glad to hear you and your group know what you are doing. A couple years ago, I got on a snowmobile after several years of not riding. Two things impressed me. The guys I went with gave me the machine and told me where the throttle was and second, said follow us. That was my training course. I know these guys don't wear or own beacons. They seem to get that invincible attitude when they are on a powerful machine. So, yes it was a blanket statement. I just wanted to hear what the pulse was out there on avalanche safety. After all, if I buy a big boy toy, it will be snowmobiles. :2thumbs:

Scott Card
12-27-2007, 11:19 AM
And thanks for the facts and info. Very helpful. And yes I did believe that most fatalities were skiers. I wonder if it is an age and maturity thing. Prepare for another blanket statement - I wonder if it is because snowmobiles cost bucks, therefore, generally older riders who can afford the things and who tend to be more cautious than those generally younger fellers wanting the ultimate rush of fresh powder in the back country? :ne_nau: (it's another scratch my head question)

12-27-2007, 12:06 PM
I really don't think age is the deciding issue. I see lots of young riders.
It's the--"if you can sign your name" we can get you a loan thing.

The issue is definately education and training(kinda like canyoneering)

I snowmobile for the same reasons I canyoneer, solitude and beautiful country and if someone thinks they can't find solitude on a motorized sled--I welcome them to come try. The only fear they'll have is the fear of admitting it's fun. :haha:

Brian in SLC
01-02-2008, 12:39 PM
That way you will have facts to back up your blanket statements.

Here's a blanket statement from:


"Looking at the most recent 5 years of national data, nearly twice as many snowmobilers have been killed as any other user group, followed by climbers, backcountry skiers, snowboarders and miscellaneous recreationists such as hikers and snowshoers."

I think backcountry skiers, especially in the central Wasatch, report the heck out of any slide, so, you get a lot of data from skiers triggering avalanches, and a bunch of folks who go look at and document the slide to understand the cause and snowpack. The big difference is who gets killed.

Kudos to you and yours for all the avy stuff you do to stay safe. My bet is that you're outside the norm for snow machine riders.

Seems like I recall last year the kid that died was in a group that was purposely triggering slides? Yikes.

Its no wonder that folks who recreate on these super fast, hill climbing and high marking type machines will just see more terrain in a day than most skiers traverse or see in a season. Crazy. And, that leads to enhanced risk too. Its hard to be cautious with that "sled neck" mentality.

Also, my two cents, but, having a beacon, shovel and probes isn't much of a safety net. Most folks die of trauma. Best equipment is the ol' noggin'. I suspect having a beacon may actually cause more fatalities than they save, as they give folks higher confidence in survival. I ski like I don't wear one. I wonder how many folks would be safer if they travelled in the winter without a beacon?

Anyhoo, lets be safe out there.


-Brian in SLC

01-02-2008, 01:12 PM
Hi Brian

Yes it is clear that snowmobile avy deaths are on the rise, I will also throw out a blanket statement-- I believe that at any given time in the backcountry(were allowed) snowmobilers outnumber cross country skiers 10 or more to 1!
I grew up skiing,started at Alta in 1966(way before there was a Snowbird), until about the early 80's I was completely ignorant as to avalanches and conditions and I skied out of bounds all the time(probably just lucky)
That is were snowmobilers are right now(mostly lucky) but there is a lot of people that ride who are becoming avalanche aware. I routinely see more than 50% of sledders now who carry shovels on there packs, that makes me presume theres a beacon on the person and a probe in the pack. But you are right on in saying these items boost ones sense of vulnerability. Many think they have beacons so any hill is safe to play on, we know the truth.
We always stop and conduct beacon training in our group, ie. one person leaves the group and buries the beacon out of site, then one at a time we run to the location given by our locators, we time each other for fun, that first 15 minutes matters as you know. Running at 10,000' vs. 5000 is a huge differance.
I gave up skiing(still go ocassionaly) for snowmobiling, I've met lots of good and maybe not so people but thats with any activity. Heck I even drug Rich away from his computer to go ride a couple days ago. I let him ride my sled and I rode my smaller , older one, we had a good time. I think that is what it is supposed to be about.

Good points

Brian in SLC
01-02-2008, 01:34 PM
Yes it is clear that snowmobile avy deaths are on the rise, I will also throw out a blanket statement-- I believe that at any given time in the backcountry(were allowed) snowmobilers outnumber cross country skiers 10 or more to 1!

Certainly not in the central Wasatch! Geez, try to find a place to park in LCC or BCC on the weekend at a trailhead....(or uncut powder 8 hours after a storm)...

But "where allowed", hard to tell. My bet is you can see, hear, and, ahem, smell at least 10,000 times more snowmachines than any x-country skiers...ha ha.

Yeah, there's good and bad with any sports. Skiers and climbers too for that matter.

I find backcountry powder skiing and snowmachines to be pretty much incompatible modes of recreation, which really points to crowding and limited resources more than anything, at least here locally. In areas that are more remote, with much lower population pressures, they seem to peacefully coexist. Except near wilderness boundaries...

If you don't have a copy of "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" might I highly suggest it. The videos from the UAC site are great too.


For the central Wasatch, with sometimes some info on the Uintas, the teletips website usually has a some local snow conditions information.

"La Ni

01-02-2008, 08:38 PM

My dad and brother were snowmobiling in the same area as these guys in the story above. They were high marking on the northfacing slope angled at 35-45 degrees. The avalanche danger was high in that area on that day. These guys were "showboating" for the other guys passing by. My brother felt like he should warn them about the danger... but didn't. He felt bad after it happened. The point is they were not thinking about the danger. We never climb those kind of slope unless it is pretty hard. Anyway, 5 people were buried. Luckily they got 4 out. The man that died was a dad and my dad and brother saw his son frantically racing around the parking lot getting help. While the search and rescue was trying to get him to calm down. No one should have died...

01-03-2008, 08:56 AM
Why do they seperate back country snowboarders from skiers? Isn't that just like seperating the skidoo sleds from the polaris? The activity is the same just different method of transportation.

Brian in SLC
01-03-2008, 09:50 AM
Why do they seperate back country snowboarders from skiers? Isn't that just like seperating the skidoo sleds from the polaris? The activity is the same just different method of transportation.

Probably to some, they're difference modes of transport, both up and down. Although I've seen folks rip on their split boards, using them as skis on a powder day.

I think in general, its "glisse" or some such. I guess some would argue its very difference demographic, and hence, a difference approach for edjucation and funding for education. Which is probably, the more I think about it, the major reason they split up that catagory.

-Brian in SLC