Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Monday, April 17, 2023
Salt Lake » Big Cottonwood Canyon » Brighton
Location Name or Route
Town of Brighton
Buried - Partly
Accident and Rescue Summary
Sometime on Monday afternoon, April 17 the victim was at a cabin partially owned by his family in the Town of Brighton. It is suspected that he walked up the north side of the roof and was trying to clear or remove snow from the south side when it avalanched.
The next morning at approximately 7:30 AM, the Unified Police Department (UPD) was dispatched to do a welfare check at the cabin. He had not returned home or gone to work. UPD and personnel from the Unified Fire Authority responded to the cabin.
They found him partially buried under at the southeast corner of the cabin by the edge of the roof. A boot and an arm were exposed. They uncovered him, unfortunately it was too late, and he did not survive.
This roof faces south, but about half of it is shaded by trees. It is made of metal and has a pitch or steepness of 30 degrees.
Weather Conditions and History
Below is a graph of air temperature from the Brighton SNOTEL site located approximately 1300 feet to the south at a similar elevation (8,765'). The blue horizontal line is drawn at 32 degrees F. Generally speaking, the weather had been cold and cloudy with very little sunshine until April 6th, the first really warm day with strong sunshine. As of April 6th, snow water equivalent at that SNOTEL site was 191% of median. A six day period of very warm air temperatures followed. Temperatures cooled below freezing on the 13th and 14th but began warming above freezing in the days leading up to this accident.
Roof avalanches are a challenging hazard that are hard to predict. While not a typical problem backcountry travelers face, roof avalanches were mentioned in the avalanche forecast for the Salt Lake area mountains on April 6-9th and April 12-13th.
All of us at the UAC are deeply saddened by this accident and hope that sharing this information will save a life in the future. We offer comments for this purpose.
- Avoid any area near a snow-covered roof where the snow will fall.
- If you need to work in one of these areas, don't work alone, and make sure your partner is in a safe location while you work.
- While roof avalanches happen seemingly randomly, they are more likely during prolonged periods of above-freezing air temperatures with strong sunshine that produces meltwater. Rain can have the same effect.