Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2010-01-24
Submitted By: UAC
Place: Hells Canyon, Snowbasin Backcountry
State: UT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught, partially buried, and killed


Preliminary report of fatality in the Snowbasin backcountry, second hand from the Snowbasin Ski Patrol

The accident occurred in an out-of-bounds area north of Snowbasin Ski Area known as Hell's Canyon. Todd Bell, a 42-year-old, local skier with a season pass was killed in an avalanche accident. It's unclear exactly how it occurred because he was skiing alone and was found by another party skiing in the area. Numerous avalanches had occurred in the area, so it was not even clear which avalanche he triggered. He was found on the snow surface, face down and appeared to have been killed by trauma.

He rode the lift at Snowbasin and headed towards No-Name with a friend, which is an open area within the ski area boundary. His friend said that they became separated right away and he did not know where he went. One of the ski patrol speculated that he may not have intended to go out of bounds but somehow ended up there, for whatever reason. He knew the area, as he was a local and used to work at Snowbasin years ago. He was not wearing a beacon, nor have any other rescue gear. It's unknown if he had consulted the backcountry avalanche advisory by the Utah Avalanche Center. There was an avalanche warning in effect for all the mountains in Utah and the avalanche danger was rated as High with pockets of Extreme.

The party that found him similarly did not have beacons or any other avalanche rescue gear. They called 911 and began CPR. Life Flight responded and picked up personnel from the Snowbasin Ski Patrol and flew in to look at the area. The party on the ground called and reported that they were discontinuing CPR because they did not get a response, so Life Flight decided that it was not worth the risk to try to land in the area or do a hoist evacuation. The Snowbasin Ski Patrol then organized a rescue and went in from the bottom and brought the victim out.

The rescue was compounded by another party that had gone into Coldwater Canyon, another out-of-bounds area north of Snowbasin, and had become lost and had triggered several avalanches. They called for help and Life Flight returned and brought them out using their hoist.

There were several recent avalanches in the Hell's Canyon area, and it was impossible to know which of the several avalanches the victim triggered. All the avalanches were 3-5 feet deep, breaking on the very weak faceted snow near the ground.

Snowbasin Ski Patrol will compile a more complete accident report.