Accident: Hells Canyon

Observer Name
Bruce Tremper, Evelyn Lees
Observation Date
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Avalanche Date
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Ogden » Snowbasin Backcountry » Hells Canyon
Location Name or Route
Hells Canyon
Slope Angle
Trigger: additional info
Unintentionally Triggered
Avalanche Type
Soft Slab
Weak Layer
Buried - Fully
Accident and Rescue Summary
Note: most of this information was provided by the Snowbasin Ski Patrol. UAC staff did not directly investigate the accident because of lingering, dangerous avalanche conditions and poor weather conditions.
Events leading up to the accident: A father and his two sons were skiing at Snowbasin resort. Later in the day, they headed out-of-bounds into the Hell’s Canyon area, an area north of Snowbasin where avalanche hazard is not mitigated with explosives, nor patrolled. Their objective was to ski powder. The group had little or no avalanche training and had no rescue gear. While descending, the sons skied ahead of their father and got separated. The details are not clear, but a slide was triggered and Brian Schwartz the seventeen year-old son was caught in the slide. Brian was swept approximately 1500 vertical feet down the slope and was buried. He had significant trauma to his face and head and appeared to have died of trauma. Brian’s father and other brother arrived at the site some time after the slide had happened. They found one of Brian’s skis and continued to look for him around the area. Soon afterwards two snowboarders arrived and saw what had happened. They also found a helmet and liner below the toe of the debris. They immediately came to dispatch to report the incident. The father and brother were also brought to dispatch shortly after. Rescue: Ski Patrol dispatched an initial response task force. This was made up of two teams; the first team came in from above; 3 pros and one dog. A second team came in from below via snowmobile and foot; two pros and a dog. The first team arrived and searched the pile with beacons, Reccos, dog and spot probing. The second team arrived and also searched with dog and spot probing. After the initial search came up negative a first column was dispatched from the top. This included 4 pros with avalanche rescue gear. When the first column arrived a probe line was started. After probing for nearly an hour a strike was made and Brian’s body was recovered approximately 6 feet under. Although he appeared dead rescue efforts were taken until a life flight helicopter could host the body back to the base of Snowbasin. All patrollers returned to the base area without further incident.