Search to resume Sunday for snowmobiler believed buried in avalanche

Published: Saturday, March 3 2012 5:56 p.m. MST

MOAB — The search for a snowmobiler reportedly buried in an avalanche in the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab was expected to resume Sunday morning.

The search was called off Saturday night because of darkness.

The incident happened in the remote Beaver Basin area. Grand County Sheriff Steve White said a group of four snowmobilers from Colorado were in the area when the slide occurred about 10:30 a.m. The rider reportedly did not have any rescue gear, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

Because of the remote location, the sheriff's office wasn't notified of the incident until 2 p.m., White said. The man's snowmobile was found under six feet of snow, about 30 feet down the slide before the search was called off for the night, White said. But there was no sign of the rider.

White estimated the size of the avalanche to be at least an acre.

The slide was the second to bury a backcountry recreationist on Saturday.

Earlier, police called a backcountry skier "very, very lucky" after walking away from being buried in Millcreek Canyon.

The man and two friends were in the West Porter area of Millcreek Canyon, said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal. About 12:10 p.m., the 35-year-old man went ahead of his friends to test the ridge line when it gave way.

The man started an avalanche that ended up burying him under 3 feet of snow, Hoyal said.

Fortunately, the men were prepared and had shovels and beacons. The man was buried for a couple of minutes before his friends were able to find him and dig him out, Hoyal said.

Search and rescue teams were put on standby, but the man was freed and able to get down the mountain on his own, Hoyal said.

Emergency crews were at the bottom by the time they got down. They checked out the trio, who declined to be transported to the hospital.

Hoyal said the incident was a good reminder for all backcountry recreationists that the avalanche danger for most of the state was still listed as "considerable" by the Utah Avalanche Center.

Since Jan. 28, there have been a dozen slides recorded by the Avalanche Center, resulting in three deaths and two injuries. A person was fully buried in six of those incidents.

Email: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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