Accident: Alta Ski Area

Observer Name
Dr Nebz
Observation Date
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Avalanche Date
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Salt Lake » Little Cottonwood Canyon » Alta Ski Area
Location Name or Route
Collins Gulch - Baldy Shoulder (Alta closed for season)
Slope Angle
Trigger: additional info
Unintentionally Triggered
Avalanche Problem
Wet Snow
Buried - Partly
Accident and Rescue Summary

We toured up to the top of the Wildcat lift today. Just as I was about to drop in, I saw two slide paths come down into the apron of Baldy in Collins Gulch. I could see one person in the slide on the west end. He was up and moving out of the slide shortly after the debris came to a halt. I dropped in and rode to the bottom. Shortly after I got to my car, the victim came down on his skis and said he had a broken rib and other injuries. He said he was pushed over a cliff. I helped him with his gear to the car and waited till the paramedics arrived. My picture is not the best, but you can see the debris pile in the center of the image with the skier in the center of the debris pile. The two skiers in the foreground are looking in the direction on the slide.

Here is a summary from Peter Donner who emailed information a day later:

Storm came in Saturday May 9 and left about 1 foot of about 10 percent snow on Baldy. Skied two runs in Collins Gulch Saturday, finished the day summiting Baldy, skiing the Main Chute.

Began the day Sunday May 11 with the objective to ski an area of the Baldy Shoulder I'd never skied. Been looking at it for years, wanting to ski it, but conditions were never right.

Summited Baldy around 10am Sunday and skied the line I'd been eyeing. Google Earth image below. The area delineated in red is the approximate area of the avalanche and the area I skied.

The line is tricky since it bottoms at a cliff band so you have to cut skier's left above the cliff for a safe exit. Off the peak the slope steepens to about 45 degrees then flattens to about 30 degrees in a small draw which feeds into the cliff.

After first run decided to do a second. Snow on the first run was dry. Ascending Baldy began chatting with Skier A. I had seen A Saturday booting up the Main Chute. He explained he didn't know the area and this was his first time on Baldy

Shoulder. We talked about skiing the line I had just skied. We summited Baldy together around 11am. It was warm. I had taken my jacket off at the bottom and did not put it on. The sky was clearing and the snow was heating, though still excellent. I deskinned, told A I was dropping, skied the line, stopped in upper Main Street, reskinned, began to ascend toward Germania Pass. About 5 minutes had passed since I had started the run.

As I was climbing I noticed an avalanche coming down the line I had just skied. A was in the avalanche which carried him over the cliff band bringing him to a stop at about the location of the star in the image below. He was on top of the debris and extremely coherent and mobile given his experience. He was in pain and thought he had broken a rib. Both his skis released, though they were right with him. He had all his gear but his goggles, which must have ripped off in the ride. He got organized, put his skis on and we descended to Goldminers Daughter together.

Both my tracks were taken out by the avalanche.

And here is yet another account from a bystander:

Our party was approximately 150-200 yards away from the skier's final stopping point at the end of this slide, and we were able to reach him immediately after the avalanche. We watched his run down the high shoulder and wondered where he was heading, as he was staying towards the main chute side of the shoulder. Apparently, this was his second run on the high shoulder, but it was obvious he stayed more skier's right this time, and that is when the slab triggered above him (10-20 ft ??). He was carried over the gut of the cliff (pictures below), which propagated another slide below the apron. I continued to catch glimpses of his body as he went over another set of smaller cliffs, and saw him swimming to the top of the debris pile as settled several hundred feet below. When the avalanche was over, the skier was facing downhill with his chest exposed above the snow, and I believe he was only partially buried below the waist, and was able to dig himself out of the debris. He immediately signaled that he was ok, and we began our ascent up to him (we had already called dispatch). Once we reached him, he thought he had broken some ribs, and was able to get back on his gear and continue down to the base. This was honestly the scariest moment I have witnessed in the backcountry, and I hope this person knows how lucky they are.