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Forecasters remind backcountry visitors to be cautious

Utah Mountain Adventures Guide Joseph Hobby, left, talks to clients during a level 1 avalanche course in the Grizzly Gulch area of Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Alta, on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, KSL)

PARK CITY, Utah — The Utah Avalanche Center is reminding skiers and snowboarders to be cautious if they’re visiting the backcountry.

This warning comes after a video was captured of a snowboarder outrunning a small slide in the same area near Park City where a man was killed earlier in December.

Drew Hardesty, with the Utah Avalanche Center, says the snowboarder triggered an avalanche about 1 foot deep and 150 feet wide.

“You could just see that he’s turning back and forth oblivious to the avalanche coming down,” says Hardesty.

Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster with the center, says that though the danger is moderate, those enjoying the outdoors should still be cautious with all the new snow that has fallen in the mountains.

“Right now, avalanche conditions aren’t particularly dangerous, but we’ve got a couple of issues with the snowpack,” he tells KSLTV. “First, new snow avalanches – they’re particularly sensitive, they’re easy to initiate on steep slopes and then secondly, we still have weak snow near the ground. So, what could be a problem is you start a new snow avalanche that then breaks a little bit deeper and wider than you expect and that is going to be an instant season-ending situation.”

The Center says that Utah averages 2 and 1/2 avalanche fatalities each winter.

Gordon says that the recent storms have given a lot of good snow to get out and enjoy. He recommends that those backcountry visitors remove earbuds and check the avalanche forecast for the areas they’re visiting.