View Full Version : Snowmobiler is 3rd avalanche death in 8 days

01-01-2008, 10:01 AM

There's a renewed call for caution and safety in Utah's backcountry following a fatal avalanche. A snowslide buried a man in Wasatch County Monday afternoon. The avalanche death is the third in Utah in eight days.

The avalanche happened in the Co-op Creek area, east of Heber City, at an elevation of about 9,500 feet. Conditions seem to be just right for slides right now in that area. Experts say it's a dangerous time to be going into the backcountry.

The Utah Avalanche Center is warning people to be careful if going to the western Uinta Mountains and mountains near Logan in northern Utah today, where conditions are considerable for an avalanche.

Very dangerous conditions yesterday are part of what caused the death 40-year-old Dale Christensen of Altamont. He was one of three snowmobilers who were fixing a snowmobile when the massive slide hit. Two of the snowmobilers swam out; but Christensen was buried for about 45 minutes.

Ron Hazard, of the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office, said, "The slide was about 200 feet wide and 1,000 feet long, and it took the snow down to dirt and rocks."

Wasatch County Search and Rescue teams say Christensen wasn't wearing an active beacon. He was flown to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Christensen owned Hot Oil Express Inc. of Altamont. "Dale would stick his neck out for someone if they needed help," employee Matt Fillinghim said. "Dale paid extra insurance money so he could hire me, so I could feed my kids. Everybody in this small community loves him."

Officials say people going into the backcountry definitely need to know what they're getting themselves into.

Hazard said, "There are areas that are safer than others. If you're on the flat and there's lots of powder snow, you can certainly have a lot of fun. But when you're jumping off banks and going from high country to low country, the snow is unstable. There's certainly more risk."

Officials from the Utah Avalanche Center say the more accessible Wasatch Mountains are also at risk for avalanches. They say the Uintas are so dangerous because heavy snow that's been falling the past few weeks is on top of light, sugary snow that came down in October.

Backcountry adventure-seekers are being urged to avoid open slopes in the Uintas, especially terrain above 9,500 feet.

If you're going into the backcountry, you're advised to pack the right gear that could help safe your life. That includes beacons, shovels and probes.

Also plan ahead, and carry supplies you might need in case of an avalanche, including food and water to last the night.

01-04-2008, 09:43 PM
The avalanche danger is very high right now, and will even be worse by weeks end. It will be interesting to see if Search and Rescue gets any calls. :2thumbs: