KSL-TV Chopper 5
A helicopter lifts hikers who were stranded by shifting snow.

ASPEN GROVE — Three hikers were pulled off a mountain by helicopter near Sundance on Wednesday afternoon after shifting snow, caused by warm temperatures, stranded them.

The two men taken off the mountain were not injured. The woman was suffering from a mild case of hypothermia and was treated at the scene and released. The hikers are from West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland and were not familiar with the area.

Lt. Darrin Gilbert of the Utah County Sheriff's Office said the group left at about 11 a.m. and were advised by a friend to park in the Aspen Grove parking lot and hike along U-92. When the hikers arrived, they noticed the Aspen Grove trailhead and decided to take that route instead.

The trail is still closed for the season, Gilbert said, but the warning signs had been torn down. The hikers were at the 9,000-foot level when they became aware that something was wrong.

"One of the comments one of the victims said was they could actually hear water rushing underneath them," Gilbert said.

Arthur Spitzer, one of the rescued hikers, said he tried to enjoy the scenery on his helicopter ride but had a hard time doing so because he felt guilty.

"In some ways its exciting, but my underlying feeling was that we caused a pain in the neck for a lot of people. . . . and we're sorry to have caused so much trouble," he told KSL TV.

Gilbert said sheriff's deputies have been monitoring the area since the beginning of the year and had noticed many slides, including several in the past week. He said hikers need to be aware that the mountains are still dangerous.

"Use caution when you go into the back country," he said. "Just because it's spring in the valley doesn't mean it's not still winter in the mountains."

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The Utah Avalanche Center has ceased forecasting avalanche danger for the year, but a note on its Web site, www.utahavalanchecenter.com, said that it "doesn't mean that there are no more avalanches."

The center advises that erratic spring weather can easily trigger avalanches, and since ski resorts are closed, there is no one in the mountains reducing the danger by using explosives to create controlled avalanches.

Anyone who ventures into snow-covered slopes, the center advised, should only do so early in the morning. Hikers and skiers should begin on the southeast slopes, then follow the sun as it hits the south, southwest and west slopes.

No one should be on snowy slopes after noon, the advisory said.

E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com