Utah mountains ripe for more avalanches

SALT LAKE CITY, March 17 (UPI) -- The danger of new avalanches remained high Sunday in the backcountry of Utah where two snowboarders died this weekend in a huge snow slide.

The U.S. Forest Service's Utah Avalanche Center said that another 6-10 inches of snow fell overnight in the mountains around Salt Lake City and warned that recent drifting snows were piling on top of crusty older layers of snow, and could break away with little warning.


Similar warnings were issued for parts of Colorado and Northern California.

"The stability pattern continues to be quite complex -- a bit like having land mines scattered throughout the backcountry," said the center's Ethan Greene. "While the chance of triggering one of these slides may only be localized, the consequences if you do could easily be fatal."

The reality of such dire warnings was underlined Saturday when a major slide broke loose in the Pioneer Peak area and swept away two teenagers -- part of a group of a dozen snowboarders who left the confines of the Brighton Ski Resort in search of fresh powder.

"Early reports indicate that the avalanche was 4 to 6 feet deep and several hundred feet wide," Greene said.


Authorities said the pair, identified as an 18-year-old male from Nevada and a 19-year-old Salt Lake County man, were carried some 200 yards by the snow and had to be located with search dogs.

"The folks at Brighton say that this was the biggest avalanche they had ever seen," Salt Lake County sheriff's spokeswoman Peggy Faulkner told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The deadly slide was the latest in a series of fatal avalanches that have occurred in the past few days in Colorado and Idaho. Thus far this winter, avalanches have killed 34 people in the United States and Canada.

According to the Avalanche Center, a snowboarder was killed and another injured Friday near the Telluride resort in Colorado. One day earlier, a skier was killed near Aspen Mountain in Colorado while another was killed and two more hurt near the community of Ashcroft.

A snowmobile operator died on March 12 in a slide near Victor, Idaho.

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

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