MILLCREEK CANYON, Utah, Feb. 6, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Four backcountry skiers were killed in an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon Saturday, and four others escaped with minor injuries.
The avalanche — which took place in the Alexander Basin, about 10 miles east of Salt Lake City — was first reported by Unified Police who tweeted at 12:29 p.m. The tweet said five people were possibly buried in the slide and their conditions were unknown.
Unified Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Melody Cutler told Gephardt Daily “a call came in at 11:40 a.m as a dropped call, but we don’t know if someone hung up or the signal cut off.”
As search and rescue teams reached the avalanche site, it became clear that at least eight people had been caught up in the backcountry slide and that four of them had not survived.
“There was actually a group of five and a group of three skiers up there when the avalanche was triggered,” Cutler said. “All eight were trapped. A couple were able to unbury themselves, and they dug out everyone else. There were four survivors, and four deceased.”
At least three Life Flight helicopters were dispatched to the scene from Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and ultimately aided in rescue efforts.
“Of the four survivors, all are off the mountain,” Cutler said. “I don’t think any of them went to the hospital, although one was hypothermic. DPS is up there, determining whether it’s safe to bring the others down, or whether it would be safer to wait until tomorrow morning.
“None of the digging was done by rescuers. All was done by fellow skiers,” Cutler said. “The four survivors were able to get everyone unburied.
“All four that are down off the mountain are males. I don’t have any idea on the others,” Cutler said.
According to Cutler, the avalanche area was not close to any ski resort and the skiers had to hike to that location.
Investigators were still attempting to confirm the victim’s identities.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson released a statement Saturday afternoon addressing the tragedy:
“We are heartbroken over the tragic news of four fatalities as the result of an avalanche in the Millcreek Canyon area this afternoon,” Mayor Wilson said. “The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Canyon Search and Rescue Unit, Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Authority, and other partners are on site responding to the situation.
“Additional details will follow as they become available throughout the evening. We deeply mourn the loss of life due to this devastating incident,” the mayor said.
The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, as well as the Utah Avalanche Center had issued warnings of dangerous avalanche conditions.
The names of the victims have yet to be released.
Gephardt Daily will update the story as more information becomes available.