Shawn Casey and his sons, Weston, 19 and Hunter, 16, headed up Providence Canyon for an afternoon of snowmobiling. Shawn knew of the high avalanche danger and believed they would stay in safe terrain. He even told his wife they would be safe. They were the first sleds up having to break trail and noted that the snow seemed "funky." They stopped at one point and felt "the snow shift." (Most likely they experienced a collapse.)
Shawn and Hunter entered the runout zone of the Fairgrounds and traveled across to and over a small sub-ridge that divides the Fairgrounds and the Rodeo Grounds. As they began their descent into the Rodeo Grounds, they triggered an avalanche and Shawn communicated to his son to "go, go, go." Both managed to outrun the slide. They circled around and waited for Weston but he never came over. After a minute or two, they headed back over the sub-ridge and saw that the entire Fairgrounds had slid. There was no visible sign of Weston. Shawn and Hunter went to the middle of the slide and looked around for any signs but saw nothing. They searched for 5-10 minutes in the area before Shawn decided to head farther down the deposition. When he approached the toe he saw a snowmobile ski sticking out of the snow. He immediately began searching for surface clues. About 20 feet uphill of the sled he saw 4 fingers of a red glove. He felt fingers in the glove and began to dig furiously.
Shawn did not have a shovel (the only shovel in the party was buried with Weston) so he dug with his bare hands (his fingers began to bleed). Hunter came down a few minutes later and broke off some branches to use to dig. Shawn and Hunter dug for about 5 minutes and finally cleared snow from Weston's face. He was blue and likely not breathing. Shawn managed to get Weston's goggles and nose protector off and "blow into his mouth." After a few breaths, Weston responded and began breathing again. (He was buried for approximately 15-20 minutes. His full face type helmet likely gave him a small air pocket.) Shawn and Hunter continued to dig Weston out for another 30 minutes. He did not have any major injuries so Shawn loaded him on his sled, returned to the trailhead, and drove straight to the hospital. Weston was treated for hypothermia and a strained neck and released that evening.
Weston had gotten stuck in the bottomless snow and was digging his sled out when the avalanche occurred. He had actually just cleaned his goggles and put them back on when he looked up and saw the avalanche coming. He said at first he didn't understand what was happening as he was out of sight of the actual slide path. When he realized he was going to get swallowed he tried to run for the trees to his left (skier's right). He was buried about 10 feet from the edge of the deposition.
A few things that may have saved his life:
1. He was very close to the end of the deposition so it was not as deep as higher up and was also slowing down as it approached him.
2. He chose to dive to the inside of a curve. The deposition directly across from him was much deeper.
3. He forgot his gloves at the gas station so his dad gave him his pair of brand new red gloves. The red really stood out against the snow.
All three are aware of how lucky they were and that having had a beacon would have made a huge difference in the amount of time Weston was buried. They shared their experience hoping that it would prevent another accident like theirs from occurring again.
None of them had ever received any formal avalanche education training.
The avalanche in the Fair Grounds occurred on the steep east face of 9700' Logan Peak, due east of Logan Utah in the Bear River Range. The very broad slope faces east and east southeast. I measured a slope angle of less than 35 degrees in some areas high on the slope and beneath crown. But there is much steeper mid-slope roll with gullies and rock outcroppings where the slope angle tops 45 degrees in places. The avalanche included, and was likely triggered from a connected slope, the Rodeo Grounds. The lower angled upper slopes fractured but did not run. The alpha angle, or angle from Crown to Toe, was around 21 degrees and actually, this avalanche path has a history of running a good distance further.
---When the accident occurred it was a windy day, with fairly strong northwest wind, periods of graupel and snow showers, and poor visibility at upper elevations and at the accident site.
A dry end to the 2013 year and a series of prolonged high pressure systems over the area left a shallow and exceptionally weak snowpack across the Bear River Range. We observed widespread deep and very loose sugary or faceted snow on most upper elevation slopes in the Logan Forecast Zone, including terrain fairly near the accident site in Providence Canyon. A prolonged moist and windy series of storms affected the Logan Zone, with 4.8 inches of water in a couple feet of snow recorded at the 8400' Tony Grove Snotel, several miles north of Logan Peak between 1-8-2014 and the time of the accident on 1-13-2014. Sustained and very strong westerly winds were recorded between January 8 and 13 at the UDOT Logan Summit weather station to the north and on Mt. Ogden to the south, but riming of the wind sensor likely skewed the readings at the Logan Peak weather station at the summit communications tower within about a hundred feet of the avalanche.
From Z-bros on 1-13-2014: Guys be careful out there be aware of the conditions and watch for the signs. This was another large slide in the same place it always seems to slide. It started in the Fair grounds breaking at the top and wrapping all the way around into the Rodeo grounds. The individual caught up in this slide was very lucky and at last report is home and doing well.
Media Stories from 1-14-2014:
The buried rider was in a party of three. He was off his sled when the avalanche occurred and tried to run for the trees to the side. He was buried about 20-30 feet away from his sled which was also buried. He had no beacon. Fingers of his borrowed red glove were visible protruding from the snow enabling his father and brother to dig him out with their hands and gathered branches. He needed to be resuscitated but had no other significant injuries. The party of three got down on two sleds and immediately drove the victim to the hospital. He was released and returned home. Toby Weed, Paige Pagnucco, and Brett Kobernik of the Utah Avalanche Center visited the site on 1-14-2014.