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Skier rescued from Alta avalanche by bystanders taking video

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013 9:11 a.m. MST

A woman triggers an avalanche as she skis down Grizzly Gulch outside Alta on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013.

Utah Avalanche Center

ALTA — Bystanders dug out a skier in a "perfect recovery" after catching a video of part of the avalanche that buried her.

The woman was skiing outside Alta about 2:30 p.m. Monday when she went down Grizzly Gulch, triggering a slide about 150-feet wide and 100-feet long that buried her completely in the narrow gully.

Across the way, a man taking a video saw it happen.

"That's not a good slope to ski," says the videographer as he watches the woman approach.

A large chunk of the snowpack breaks off behind her and begins to slide, and the video cuts out as the man rushes to help.

The videographer and two others used an avalanche probe to locate the skier, then started digging, pulling her out from under about a foot of snow in about five minutes, said Brett Kobernik, avalanche forecaster with Utah Avalanche Center.

The woman had deployed an avalanche airbag when the slide caught her, which likely kept her from being pulled deeper, Kobernik said. In more open terrain, avalanche airbags can help skiers stay on top of a slide.

"This was a very, very close call," Kobernik said, applauding the rescuers for reacting quickly and being prepared with shovels and avalanche transceivers. "With them knowing how to operate their avalanche safety gear and just being there in the right place at the right time, (it was a) perfect recovery."

According to the description accompanying the video on YouTube, the woman was "Slightly shook up and lost a ski," but was unharmed.

The avalanche danger for Monday was listed at "considerable," meaning human-triggered avalanches are likely at altitudes above 9,000 feet, Kobernik said. Grizzly Gulch is at 9,200 feet, according to a report by the Utah Avalanche Center.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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