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Accident: Alta Ski Area

Observer Name
UAC Staff
Observation Date
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Avalanche Date
Wednesday, January 1, 1941
Salt Lake » Little Cottonwood Canyon » Alta Ski Area
Location Name or Route
Snake Pit
Buried - Fully
Accident and Rescue Summary
On New Year's Day, the ski area was operating but the dangerous avalanche paths, including Greeley Hill, were posted closed due to avalanche danger. (Closures were the only protective measures used at Alta at this time.) Two Skiers returning from a tour of Albion Basin chose to reach the ski area by traversing across the middle of Greeley Hill. When the lead man started across this slope, a large slab avalanche broke loose and carried him into the Snake Pit, the deep, narrow ravine of Little Cottonwood Creek at the foot of Greeley Hill. His companion was outside the fracture line and escaped. The victim was deeply buried under the snow which funneled into the narrow gulley.
Rescue parties were unable to locate him by probing. His body was finally recovered by trenching 48 hours later, under six feet of snow near the tip of the debris.
Terrain Summary
Reports on this accident are based largely on oral tradition. Several photographs exist which show the fracture line, trail of the victim, and the rescue. From these a medium to large hard slab, HS-AL-3 or 4 is deduced.
This is a classic example of an ill-chosen touring route. Crossing the middle of the avalanche path offers the greatest prospect of triggering it. This particular path has long been known as a particularly dangerous one, for even a shall layer of sliding snow will accumulate to great depths in the Snake Pit.