MILLCREEK CANYON — Avalanche forecasters returned Friday to the site of a deadly avalanche high above Big Cottonwood Canyon that claimed the life of a Sugar House man.
Douglas Green, 49, was killed in an avalanche about 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Gobblers Knob, an area between Millcreek and Big Cottonwood canyons. A second man, Tyson Bradley, 50, was injured when he was partially buried by the slide.
Green was a radiologist in Seattle. He did his residency at the University of Utah, had a home in Salt Lake City and spent his winters skiing the Wasatch Front.
“He just exuded energy when he was on the mountain. He had a passion for chasing snow wherever it would fall,” said Marc Guido, editor of First Tracks!! Online ski magazine. He skied with Green Wednesday at Alta.
“We talked about his plans for the future and what he intended to do with his career and wind it down and spend more time here in Utah skiing,” Guido said.
He described Green as a well-prepared and knowledgeable backcountry skier.
"He had a sound depth of knowledge with regard to snow conditions and avalanche risk,” he said. "He's going to be deeply missed."
Green was descending the slope with a friend, one at a time, in stages of a couple hundred feet. During the second stage, Green, skiing second, triggered the slide, said Mark Staples, director of U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center.
“He felt the slope collapse and shot off to the side to do the best he could to escape,” Staples said. “It can easily be going 60 to 80 mph once it takes off.”
Bradley was caught in the slide. “The person who was partially buried was next to some trees,” Staples said.
Bradley dug himself out and worked his way through the avalanche debris to get to Green. “(He had to) go down the icy bed surface, all of that great powder that is easy to ski is gone,” Staples said. “All of that snow was funneled into a tight gully, which makes the debris pile deeper and extends for hundreds of yards.”
Green deployed an air vest but was still buried 3 feet deep in the debris, which was piled 15 feet high at the bottom of the gully. Bradley performed CPR but could not save him.
"He took a very long ride. It's like being in a very violent, very horrible car accident,” Staples said.
Avalanche danger was high at the time. "Even though the danger is dropping, it's not like the danger goes away,” Staple said. “It's not like turning off the light switch."
Even though the odds of triggering an avalanche decreases each day, slopes can remain unstable for days or weeks at a time, he said.
The weather can change quickly, too. Avalanche forecasters urge anyone headed into the backcountry to check the Utah Avalanche Center website before they go.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc