Davis County Sheriff officers, SAR crews assist 87 ultra marathon runners caught in blizzard

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah, Oct. 9, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Davis County Sheriff deputies and Search and Rescue crews responded to Farmington Canyon Saturday morning after a call came in reporting dozens of ultra marathon runners caught in a blizzard.

The call came to dispatch at 9:30 a.m., and officials closed the canyon road, which is northeast of Lagoon Amusement park, and began the search for one runner who had been reported lost, another who had fallen, and others showing signs of hypothermia as they ran in shoes, shorts and T-shirts.

All 87 runners of the ultra marathon, which was planned for 50 miles but was cut short, were out of the canyon as of 2:30 p.m., Sheriff Kelly Sparks told reporters.

“They ran into extreme weather conditions and encountered snow,” he said, adding that at one point on the route, the snow was 18 inches deep.

The race organizers’ plan had been a run up the mountain, then south along the top of the mountain, then down Farmington Canyon, then to North Canyon, to the east of North Salt Lake.

“Once they encountered those extreme weather conditions, it was actually whiteout conditions,” Sparks said.

Davis County’s SARS crew and some deputies were deployed to the route of the race.

“We were able to cover the entire race course using 4x4s and snowmobiles, and we had many search and rescue members out on foot,” Sparks said. “Over several hours, we were able to account for all the runners, and the race was terminated at Farmington Canyon rather than its intended destination. We were able to bring all the racers down and out.”

Farmington Fire and South Davis Fire personnel Department set up a triage at the bottom of the canyon, Sparks said.

“Several runners were treated for hypothermia, and one was treated for hypothermia and the injuries sustained in a fall. None of them required hospitalizations. We were very fortunate today there were no serious injuries.”

Sparks said weather conditions can be a light rain in the valley and blizzard conditions at a higher elevation. He said that some runners were a little more prepared for weather fluxuations, but the normal dress for an ultra marathon is shorts and T-shirts because distance runners try to keep their clothing light. Ultra marathoners are also used to aid stations along the route, so they typically don’t carry water or snack, he said.

“They were certainly not prepared for the blizzard conditions we have here today,” Sparks said.

Crews are always ready for rescues, year round, Sparks said, adding that at present, there are many hunters in mountainous areas of Davis County, so rescues are anticipated.

Sparks said he would not advise anyone to go to the mountains “unless they were very well prepared.”

The sheriff elaborated in a statement released later.

“Venturing onto mountains, trails and bodies of water at this time of year can be dangerous because the weather changes rapidly and conditions can quickly become life threatening. Even a mild rain in the valley can translated to blizzard conditions at a higher elevation.

“The rapid and collaborative response of our Search and Rescue volunteers, race organizers and first responders from multiple agencies resulted in minimal injuries and all runners returning home safely today. I extend my deep gratitude to everyone involved in this rescue effort.”


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