Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Ethan Greene, USFS Utah Avalanche Center
Place: Upper Chalk Creek, near Oakley
Summary: 3 snowmobilers caught, 2 completely buried, and killed
I checked the site of the Uinta accident on Monday. The slide was at
about 10,000 feet on a northwest facing slope. The main part of the
slide was an hour-glass shaped path about 150 feet wide at the top with
a 50-75 foot choke before opening back up to about 150 feet wide in the
deposition area, which was up to 12 feet deep. But... in addition the
fracture jumped out of the main slope and took out the next two gullies
but not running onto the main deposition area. Thus, the total width was
about 500 feet. It ran only 400 feet vertical. Although a couple of
areas in the starting zone were about 40 degrees steep, most of the bed
surface was under 35 degrees. Alpha angle: 27 degrees. Fracture depth: 2
to 5 feet. Most of the bed surface was down to ground level but in
places the sliding surface was the faceted layer fromed during the
December - January clear spell. A pit on the flank at about the level
where the slide was triggered showed a two foot hard slab over very weak
facets and depth hoar.
Both victims were buried about 3 feet deep near the toe of the debris
with either a hand or a foot sticking out. They were about 75 feet
laterally away from their sleds. The initial search was focused near the
sleds and without beacons it must have taken some time to locate the
Huge Avalanche Kills Two
BY FRANK CURRERI
THE SALT LAKE
OAKLEY -- A day of leisure turned lethal for two
snowmobilers Saturday when an avalanche erupted on
a mountain near Oakley in Summit County.
The massive snowslide -- estimated at at least 900
feet long, 180 feet wide and 12 feet deep -- buried the
two men at around 1 p.m. while the father of one victim
helplessly looked on in horror, according to Lt. Joe
Offret of the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
The victims, identified as 29-year-old Jason Wade of
Layton and 29-year-old Steven Barlow of Salt Lake
City, marked Utah's third and fourth avalanche deaths of
the year. Wade and Barlow, along with a friend and the
father of one of them, had been joyriding in a popular
snowmobile haven of Upper Chalk Creek that is
commonly referred to as "the chutes."
Suddenly, thousands of pounds of snow came
rumbling down the estimated 9,000-foot-high mountain
like a gigantic wave. One man, 25-year-old Jason
Peacock, tried to outmaneuver the slide on his
snowmobile, Offret said.
Peacock's flight attempt was unsuccessful, Offret
said, but may have saved his life; Peacock was only
partially submerged under the snow's weight and he
escaped without injury.
Peacock rushed to the aid of his trapped friends,
locating and somehow digging them out, Offret said. He
administered CPR to his dying friends but was unable
to revive them. One of the dead men's father, whose
name was not revealed Saturday, was barely spared
from the avalanche because he was farther down the
mountain than the others, Offret said.
"Apparently the slide stopped just a few feet from
him," Offret said.
Conditions at the mountain were ripe for disaster
because of heavy snowfall in the area over the 12 hours
preceding Saturday's slide. It is well known that March
is the peak season for avalanches. In addition, the U.S.
Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center advisory had
rated Saturday's avalanche danger as "considerable" for
steep slopes at or below 7,500 feet.
Yet Summit County rescue officials were struck by
one fact of the mountain's shape: Its terrain was not
particularly steep, as they had expected. They do not
believe the snowmobiling quartet had any electronic
beacons or shovels with them, a recommended
precaution for people in backcountry snow areas.
What rescue officials had not determined Saturday
was whether the avalanche was human-caused or
natural. Nor had they discovered the precise cause of
death for Wade and Barlow, who were pronounced
dead at the scene. Their bodies are expected to be sent
to the state medical examiner's office for autopsy. A
common cause of death for avalanche victims is
"It sets up like a concrete wall," Offret said, "and
[the snow] can actually squeeze the air out of you."
Summit County investigators, who closed part of the
mountain Saturday, intend to revisit the avalanche site
Sunday to continue their probe.
But Offret said police cannot close access to public
land, where the slide occurred.
The mountain, Offret said, will "probably be open."