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Body Found in Avalanche Near Park City, Utah

By Jan Wesner Childs

January 09, 2021

At a Glance

  • The Utah Avalanche Center warned of considerable risk Friday.
  • Recent snow and wind led to hazardous conditions.
  • More than two dozen people are killed by avalanches each year in the U.S.
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Rescuers on Friday found the body of a snowboarder who was buried in an avalanche in Park City, Utah, amid warnings of dangerous conditions.

The victim was identified as a 31-year-old resident of Clinton, Utah. His body was found around several hours after the avalanche.

"It is with great sadness we report that the (31-year-old) male has been located and died in the avalanche," Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said on Twitter. "Our most sincere condolences go to the family, girlfriend and friends. The name will not be released at this time."

The sheriff's office tweeted shortly before noon Friday that search and rescue and air support were on the scene of the avalanche in the backcountry outside the Park City Mountain Resort. An eyewitness told authoritites the man was buried.

(MORE: Weaker Polar Vortex Just One Ingredient to an Interesting Pattern for Winter Storms Into February)

Park City, a popular winter ski resort, is in the Wasatch Mountains about 32 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The resort's website says it is the biggest in the U.S., covering more than 11 square miles.

The avalanche occurred in the Dutch Draw area of the backcountry outside the resort, according to the sheriff. KSL-TV reported that the incident happened at about 10 a.m. MST after a woman and her boyfriend left the resort boundaries.

The man was snowboarding when he triggered the avalanche, according to the Associated Press. His body was found buried in about two feet of snow more than four hours later.

A man was killed in an avalanche at the same location in December of 2019, according to national avalanche statistics compiled by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

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The Utah Avalanche Center warned Friday that recent snowfall and winds led to hazardous conditions in the area.

"There is a CONSIDERABLE AVALANCHE DANGER on steep slopes at the mid and upper elevations facing west, through north, and east where recent storm snow and winds have created a dense slab of snow on top of a buried persistent weak layer," forecaster Greg Gagne wrote in a daily update.

Avalanches up to 3 feet deep and more than 200 feet wide were possible.

"If you are leaving the ski area through an exit gate, you are entering the backcountry and likely stepping into a CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger," Gagne added.

At least 20 human-triggered avalanches were reported in the area in the past week, according to the center. Gagne said in the Friday forecast that he was afraid someone would get hurt.

He followed up on that in Saturday's forecast, which highlighted the continued risk of avalanches.

"On Friday, I wrote, 'There have been several close calls/near misses this past week and I am fearful our luck has run out,'" Gagne wrote. "Indeed it has, and I wish I was wrong."

An average of 27 people were killed in avalanches in each of the past 10 years in the U.S., according to the CAIC data. Five have died so far this winter season, all of them in December. Four of the deaths were in Colorado and one in Wyoming. Twenty-three people were killed during the 2019-2020 season.

A helicopter flies over the area where an avalanche occurred in the backcountry outside of the Park City Mountain Resort ski area on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. A man who ventured outside of the resort to snowboard was killed in the avalanche. (Park City Fire District via Facebook)
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A helicopter flies over the area where an avalanche occurred in the backcountry outside of the Park City Mountain Resort ski area on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. A man who ventured outside of the resort to snowboard was killed in the avalanche. (Park City Fire District via Facebook)

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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