Four experienced local snowmobilers were riding in the “Rodeo Grounds” area on Christmas Eve morning, the first clear day after several consecutive days under stormy weather conditions. The party triggered a huge hard slab avalanche, which buried and killed two close friends, 22-year-old Erik Jorgensen of Paradise and 23-year-old Jesse Johnson of Hyrum.
The avalanche was reported to authorities at around 10:30 am via satellite phone by a member of a separate snowmobiling party. About twenty snowmobilers, who were riding in the area, helped the surviving members of the party with the rescue attempt. From what I could piece together at the scene, one of the victims was very deeply buried in the heavy debris (10-12’ deep). The other was recovered in the vicinity of a grove of large spruce and fir trees. Survival of such a deep burial in avalanche deposition is extremely rare, and trauma due to impacting trees while carried by an avalanche accounts for around 25% of avalanche deaths in North America.
The victims were recovered with the aid of avalanche transceivers, which each wore, and probes and shovels. After previous avalanche incidents in the area, extra probes and shovels are cached at a nearby warming hut by Cache Search and Rescue (Cache County Sheriff) and local snowmobilers…. Members of CSAR and the flight crew of the responding Life Flight medical rescue helicopter were unable to resuscitate the two young men.