Three skiers survive Alta avalanche

By Don Hudson

Published 12/23 2013 01:31PM

Updated 12/23 2013 10:15PM

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4UTAH) - Three skiers are lucky to be alive after being caught up in an avalanche at Alta Ski Resort on Monday. The avalanche started in bounds just above High Traverse at the Spot Slot and shut down the Collins lift for a couple of hours.

ABC 4 Utah talked to witnesses about what happened. Dan Bennett was just a 30 to 50 feet away when it happened. "At that point we realized it was much more snow and we were witnessing an avalanche."

As Bennett watched the snow roll down the the mountain - he knew the skiers in the three foot deep one hundred foot wide avalanche were in trouble. "I was actually yelling. Slide! As loud as I could." Other skiers saw it happen as well. One witness says one of the skiers " carried down and buried." And he adds "They were in a hurry to get him out."

Bennett, who has held an Alta ski pass for 14 years, says he and others immediately took off to rescue those involved. "I watched the slide until it stopped. At that point I went to where I had last seen the person - who I assumed was buried." "Me, my roommate and two other guys were probing with our poles."

One by one the three skiers who were partially buried - were rescued. "I did see them pull the snow away and he did come out of the snow." ABC 4 Utah was told - despite the danger - the skiers were not seriously hurt.

Experts say there were lucky. And they say - an avalanche like this is rare. Avalanche expert and Utah Avalanche Center worker Craig Gordon says "This is a very unusual event to happen in the resort boundary."

Skiers have different views about the avalanche. Some say it's part of the risk. Others say it may impact their time on the slopes. One unidentified skier said "I understand the risks - you can't always predict what can happen." While another said "We were planning to go all break, but now we are not sure if we should still go."

A spokesman for Alta said that the ski resort did avalanche maintenance this morning. He called it an unfortunate incident, but with a very good outcome. By the way, all lifts were opened a couple hours after the avalanche.

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