HUNTSVILLE — Two snowmobilers are being called "very lucky" for escaping serious injury Friday after triggering an avalanche on Whiskey Hill.
"We looked up at Whiskey and saw that the entire hill had broken loose down to the boulders. We then saw a snowmobile laying on the ground, partially wedged into the wall left by the big slab that came down," four snowmobilers who witnessed the incident reported to the Utah Avalanche Center.
"Evidently two riders started to climb Whiskey. The leading rider triggered the slab just as he reached the top. He rode off of the last slab and slammed into the wall left behind (crown face) bending his handlebars to the windshield."
The other snowmobiler was able to outrun the slide. The witnesses said both men were "very lucky" not to have been more seriously injured.
"I can't believe the two attempted to climb Whiskey that day with the avalanche danger rate 'high' on your site. More questionable was the fact that both were climbing together. Had they both been buried, we would have observed the slide and moved on, with no knowledge of the slide being human triggered," the witnesses wrote.
The avalanche comes less than 24 hours after a snowboarder was killed in Dutch Draw, an area just outside the boundaries of The Canyons Ski Resort. Timothy Robert Baker, 24, was killed while snowboarding in an out-of-bounds area off the Ninety Nine 90 Ski Lift.
The area is roped off from the rest of the resort and several signs are posted, including one with a skull and crossbones, warning skiers not to go into the backcountry area.
Baker was with two friends who were on skis.
Another group of experienced skiers who were in the same area but further to the south in smoother terrain, yelled at the group to get away from the area because it was too steep, according to a report from the Utah Avalanche Center.
As the trio started down the slope, the other group noted that "they all appeared to be poor skiers and riders and were having trouble negotiating the steep terrain," the report states.
The two skiers made it to the bottom, but the snowboarder was behind and "flailing down the slope," according to the witnesses.
"They yelled again from the ridge that he should get off the slope," the report states. "They ran into the two skiers at the bottom and had some words with them about what they were doing was dangerous."
The snowboarder unintentionally triggered the avalanche and was buried under about 3 ½ feet of debris. None of the three in the group were equipped with beacons or rescue gear, according to the avalanche report. Baker was buried for an estimated 40 minutes before rescuers could find him and dig him out.
The avalanche occurred in the same area where a massive slide killed 27-year-old Shane Maxiner, of Sandpoint, Idaho, in 2005.
The accident marked the fourth avalanche fatality in Utah since November and third in the past month.
The avalanche danger in Utah was listed as "considerable" to "high" for most of the state by the Utah Avalanche Center on Friday.