Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2006-04-03
Submitted By: UAC; Kobernik
Place: Pioneer Ridge, an out-of-bounds area near Brighton Ski Resort
State: UT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowboarder caught, buried, and killed

**OFFICIAL REPORT FROM Utah Avalanche Center**

Monday, April 3, 2006

Pioneer Peak ? One Snowboarder caught, buried, and killed.

Preliminary investigation by: Brett Kobernik


Pioneer Peak near Brighton ski area.

(Click here for photos and a map)

Accident Summary:

Two snowboarders decided to leave the Brighton ski resort afternoon on Monday. They rode the Crest lift then exited through the ski area boundary gate and hiked up the ridge heading toward Pioneer Peak. Once they were near the intended ski decent, one of them had a large cornice break underneath him which in turn triggered a sizeable avalanche that swept him down the slope. He was carried over a sizeable section of rocks. The time was approximately 1:30 pm.

Rescue Summary:

The victim?s partner quickly started down an adjacent slope and made a quick search of the debris pile. Neither of them had any avalanche rescue gear with them. After he was unable to locate his friend he returned to Brighton to summon the ski patrol. At 1:55 pm ski patrol dispatched the initial search party along with the witness. One of the ski patrols located a hand sticking out of the debris pile and they made the recovery at 2:21. The victim was buried about 1 ? feet deep. Resuscitation efforts were applied and a Life Flight helicopter was sent to the accident sight where the victim was loaded and flown to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. At this time it is not known whether the victim died from trauma or asphyxiation.

Avalanche Data:

The cornice that broke was around 40 or 50 feet wide and 5 to 6 feet thick. The slab that was released from the cornice impact was 10 to 24 inches deep and up to 100 feet wide. It ran around 500 feet vertical distance. The debris was around 4 to 5 feet deep and 60 to 100 feet wide. The slope was around 40 degrees in steepness with a north northeast aspect. The cornice broke at around 10,300 feet in elevation.

Weather History: (Click here for seasonal weather history charts)

Snow storms accompanied by strong winds built large cornices over the last week. These cornices already proved to be sensitive with a few other people having them break off underneath them over the last few days. Daytime heating on Monday may have also played a role in further weakening an already sensitive cornice.


The witness was very shaken up and realizes the many mistakes that they made resulted in a tragic ending. Often accidents are cumulative mistakes compounded. One of the common themes is they were very familiar with the backcountry terrain outside of the ski resort. Many people forget that these adjacent backcountry areas are not part of the ski resort and do not receive any avalanche control work from the ski resorts. After frequenting these areas many times they can start to feel like just another part of the ski resort.

The snowboarders did own avalanche rescue gear and practiced with it. They did not carry it that day because they had no intention of leaving the ski resort. They didn?t call the avalanche forecast that morning but did read the brief forecast that the ski patrol posts from the Utah Avalanche Center at the backcountry gates. They were expert snowboarders but their avalanche skills were not as high. They did note some recent avalanche activity while walking the ridge but were unaware of how sensitive the newer cornices were. The cornice that broke already had foot tracks from other backcountry travelers that were walking around on it earlier in the day. This may have given the victim a false sense of security.

end report


Avalanche kills Chilean 'boarder

He, friend boarding out of bounds near Brighton Ski Resort

By Pat Reavy

Deseret Morning News

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON ? A snowboarder who was visiting from Chile was killed Monday after an avalanche buried him while he was in an out-of-bounds area near Brighton Ski Resort.

A Life Flight helicopter circles, looking for a landing zone near Brighton Ski Resort Monday. The helicopter was en route to retrieve a 27-year-old snowboarder who had been caught in an avalanche. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Atilio Giorgio Cremaschi Yazar, 27, was snowboarding near Pioneer Ridge just after 2 p.m. when the slide occurred. He was with a friend, who had to make his way down the hill before he could find a member of the ski patrol and report what had happened, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Jon Fassett.

Brighton ski patroller Patrick Eibs said the avalanche ran nearly 100 feet wide and more than 400 feet down the slope from the 10,321-foot ridge. He said Cremaschi Yazar fell through a wind-swept cornice, or overhang, onto a steep slope and triggered a three-foot deep avalanche, burying all but one glove under the snow.

The ski resort's Wasatch Backcountry Rescue team located Cremaschi Yazar about 20 minutes later using probing poles, Fassett said. The rescue team dug the man out and began trying to resuscitate him before the county's search and rescue crews arrived.

Emergency crews at first thought they would need a hoist to lift the 'boarder out of the area, but a Life Flight helicopter was able to land nearby. The crews loaded him into the helicopter and flew him to University Hospital in extremely critical condition.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Officials said Monday's incident is a solemn reminder to all backcountry recreationists to be extremely careful in the spring. As the weather starts to get warmer and the winds kick up with spring storms, Fassett said it's more important than ever to check avalanche conditions before venturing out of bounds.

Conditions Monday were listed at "moderate to considerable," he said, meaning that a skier is likely to cause an avalanche, with the danger increasing as the day went on.

It was the third avalanche-related death so far this season.

Marshall Higgins, 31, was killed New Year's Eve while snowshoeing the Primrose Cirque area at Mount Timpanogos. His body has not been recovered. Earlier this month, snowboarder Ryan Smedley, 34, died after triggering an avalanche in the Taylor's Canyon region near Ogden's Snowbasin Ski Area.

During the 2004-2005 ski season, eight people were killed in avalanches in Utah, one of the deadliest seasons since the state began keeping records in the 1950s. Experts have said this season isn't expected to be as bad.