WATCH: Snowmobilers survive near-deadly avalanche near the Uinta mountains, Saturday

Local News

UINTA MOUNTAINS, Utah (ABC4) — A Draper man, friends, and family are thankful to be alive after getting caught in an avalanche, Saturday.

According to Miles Penrose, he was snowmobiling in an area very familiar to him in the Uinta mountains, when an avalanche struck, Saturday.

“My brother and I were playing on the side of a hill in the tree area where [we] have ridden 30-40 times in years past,” writes Miles in a post. “We had 3 other friends and one younger below in the flats. As I finished recording my brother playing in the pow, the mountain shook. My original thought was… Earthquake. [Then] it [hit] me, avalanche.”

There have been 3 deadly avalanches since the beginning of 2021, taking the lives of six people.

As Penrose saw the snow wave approaching, he immediately grabbed his avalanche backpack and alerted his brother of the slide.

“I pulled my Klim avalanche backpack and boom, nothing happened… A second later the snow hit and the swimming started,” Penrose informs.

Penrose then goes on to share a terrifying video of a massive wave of snow blasting toward his group of sled riders:

(Warning: The following videos contain language that may be offensive to some viewers)

According to Penrose, after the snow hit, he was able to unbury himself.

“Only being buried to my lower chest I dug myself out,” Penrose shares. “My little brother’s sled was running and I could hear the yelling on the radio… I could hear someone in the trees, but I couldn’t figure out where. I ran to my brother’s sled and turned it off. I now could hear him screaming my name.”

Penrose then shares a video of him uncovering his brother following the near deadly slide.

“Had I not been able to hear his voice I would of been lost,” adds Penrose. “My beacon, probe, and shovel were all in my backpack but I would of had no clue what to do first. Let me tell you There is no worse feeling than having your little brother buried. I followed his voice and saw the top of his black helmet and his voice and started digging. About 60 seconds later I had his face uncovered.”

According to officials, some group members who were buried, were able to unbury themselves out.

This all occurred on the same day four skiers died in a Millcreek avalanche.

According to the Utah Avalanche Center, that was the deadliest avalanche in Utah history since 1992 where four others also died.

And just before that in January, two men also died after being buried in Utah’s avalanches.

The death of 57-year-old Kurt Damshroder marks the second person to die in an avalanche in Summit County in January.

His story, along with the late 31-year-old Kevin Jack Steuterman, has heightened safety concerns in the backcountry. 

Craig Gordon with Utah’s Avalanche Association said it is wise to listen to any warnings put out, especially if there is a high avalanche risk. 

Avalanches may seem to strike without warning, making avoiding one seemingly impossible. But, according to the Utah Avalanche Center, avalanches are often triggered and there can be signs that one is about to happen.

Photo from 3’ deep avalanche on 2/1

Here are some interesting facts from the Utah Avalanche Center about avalanches that can help you be more prepared if faced with one:

  • Avalanches are often triggered by people: In 90% of avalanche accidents, the victim or someone with the victim triggers the avalanche in some way. When natural avalanches occur, it is usually because snow is blown over weak layers of snow or rapid warming weakens the layers. In these cases, there are often clear signs that the snow is unstable.
  • Avalanches are not usually made up of loose snow: Rather, dangerous avalanches are caused by plates or layers of snow which can weaken and shatter, causing them to slide. Avalanches made up of loose snow (called sluffs) do not often cause deaths or any notable damage.
  • Avalanche debris settles like concrete: If you are buried in avalanche debris, it can be close to impossible to dig yourself out.
  • Avalanches are not usually caused by loud noises: It would take vibration from an extremely loud noise, like an explosion, to cause an avalanche. The noise would have to occur very close and under already very unstable conditions in which an avalanche was likely to occur naturally anyway.
Courtesy: UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER
  • Avalanche victims are often recreating in the backcountry: Snowmobilers are almost twice as likely to die from an avalanche than from any other snow activity.
  • People caught in avalanches don’t die from lack of oxygen: Even dense avalanche debris is usually full of air. Those buried in snow are more likely to die from carbon dioxide poisoning which collects around their mouth.
  • For avalanche victims, the first 15 minutes are key: 93% of buried avalanche victims are found alive if they are rescued within the first 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, only 20 to 30 percent are recovered alive.

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