Backcountry Avalanche Kills Snowboarder
21-year-old New Hampshire Man Killed in Utah
Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1998
A New Hampshire man was killed Saturday after he triggered an avalanche on the upper mountain of a closed ski area in Utah. Jeff Clement, 21, was snowboarding with four friends in Little Cottonwood Canyon, between the Alta and Snowbird ski areas, when the incident occurred.
The Wasatch viewed from Snowbird
"It was reported that he was the last to start down and he's the one who broke it loose," Captain Gil Howard, of the Salt Lake Country Sheriff's Office, said. "It was a way unstable area.
|"The problem was they were in a ski area, but they were faced with backcountry conditions..."|
Sgt. Gil Howard, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office
"All five were buried to one extent or another," Howard said, "and he was the only one completely buried." The other four were able to extract themselves, but Clement was buried with his board uphill. Carrying no beacons or shovels, the friends reportedly did everything they could to locate Clement but were unsuccessful.
Clement's body was found at approximately 2 p.m. Saturday by an Alta rescue dog, but a heavy storm predicted for the area Saturday night forced rescuers to abandon the recovery effort.
Returning Sunday during snows, rescuers "shocked the mountain" to release unstable snow and safely removed the body. Clement was originally buried under three feet of snow. Though not officially determined, Howard said, it appeared Clement may have died from severe head trauma
"The problem was they were in a ski area, but they were faced with backcountry conditions. They are lulled into a false sense, but there's no control work done and this is the tragic outcome," Howard said. Howard said he has heard there were upwards of 50 people in the area that day. Clement and his friends 'were just in the wrong area on the wrong day and at the wrong time," he said.
A female member of the group was transported to Alta View hospital after the accident but has since been released. The other three snowboarders were not seriously injured.
Howard said the five friends had hiked the ridgeline from Alta ski area onto Mt. Baldy. Not yet open for the season, the upper mountain, Howard said, is a popular pre-season destination for adventurous skiers and snowboarders. But, without any controls yet done on the mountain, avalanche danger was extremely high and the fact that the area is closed is well posted.
"They had to hike quite a bit to get up there," Howard said, "but it's not atypical. It's a hard way to learn, but if we can prevent it from happening again, then there's a small amount of good that comes from it." Howard said it is imperative people learn about snow conditions and snow safety, as well as carry emergency equipment.