UPDATE: THURSDAY, 1/20/2022, 4:45 P.M.
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah (ABC4) – We’re learning more about a skier found deceased in Utah’s backcountry Thursday.
68-year-old Merrill Bitter, of Cottonwood Heights, was discovered by search and rescue crews near Alta Ski Area Thursday morning around 9 a.m.
Rescue crews discovered him in the Wolverine Bull area of Grizzly Gulch. The area is considered a backcountry area with an intermediate-level run amid several expert runs.
Family members say Bitter spent his entire life devoted to the outdoors. As an expert rock climber, he also loved backcountry skiing.
His cause of death is still unclear.
But what is clear — is that Merrill Bitter was an icon in the outdoor community and family members tell ABC4 they are shocked by his passing.
When family didn’t hear back from him by afternoon, search and rescue teams mobilized.
It wasn’t until this morning that his body was recovered.
Usually — when talking backcountry danger, it’s avalanches. But avalanche danger is low in Utah right now. What can be dangerous are, though, are these slopes that face the sun all day.
“And in the morning or late in the day, that is a very hard slick surface. So it’s super easy that we lose our footing under our skis, our board, our snowshoes. and once you start sliding on a steep slope, you accelerate extremely rapidly,” Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center told ABC4.
Family members of Merrill Bitter describe him as just the healthiest outdoorsman, cautious and experienced.
Knowing he died in these mountains, they say is bittersweet.
ORIGINAL STORY: THURSDAY, 1/20/2022, 9:30 a.m.
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah (ABC4) – Police have confirmed a skier has been found dead in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday morning.
Law enforcement and family members have identified the skier as 68-year-old Merrill Bitter.
Rescue crews discovered him in the Wolverine Bull area of Grizzly Gulch around 9 a.m. The area is considered a backcountry area with an intermediate-level run amid several expert runs.
Police say his body was discovered by DPS helicopters during an aerial search. Officials say there is evidence of a small avalanche slide near where Bitter was found.
He was reported overdue around 3 p.m. on Wednesday and authorities had been searching for him throughout the night.
His cause of death will be released following results confirmed by a medical examiner.
ABC4 will update this story as more information becomes available.
Original Story: Grizzly Gulch area closed for search and rescue effort
THURSDAy 1/20/22 7:55 a.m.
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah (ABC4) – A search and rescue effort is currently underway in little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday morning.
Unified Police say authorities are searching for an overdue skier near the Grizzly Gulch. The backcountry area is currently closed to allow for search and rescue efforts. Travelers heading up SR-210 should plan ahead for this closure.
Authorities say the man was reported overdue around 3 p.m. on Wednesday and police were contacted around 9 p.m.
Multiple agencies have been searching for the missing skier since last night. A DPS helicopter with night vision aided in the search.
Crews have resumed their search on Thursday morning.
ABC4 will update this story when more information becomes available.