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This terrifying viral video shows how one skier narrowly escapes an avalanche

Video: Skier vs. avalanche

Mountain ridgeline covered in snow
Joshua Sukoff via Unsplash

Fresh snow and big mountains offer the finest skiing and riding thrills. Soft powder glides under your feet. Steep pitches challenge your skills. That combination produces sweeping turns and a feeling like nothing else. But avalanche danger always lurks in the distance.

Recently, a Utah skier had a close encounter with an avalanche and, with quick reflexes, escaped to ski another day. The video footage serves as a reminder of backcountry dangers and the need to stay vigilant. Here’s what happened. 

Slide on Conehead at Dutches Draw 2/17/24

How a Utah skier escaped an avalanche

On a powder morning, bliss awaits on the slopes. If you’re a local, you know all the secret spots to hit before the resort gets tracked out. Or if you’re a visitor, you’ll probably have a few hours to float through majestic crystals before the fresh snow’s gone. 

When few stashes remain, you can head through the resort gates and explore backcountry terrain. With that comes unpatrolled terrain with increased avalanche hazards. But even if you take every precaution, avalanches can still occur, as one skier experienced near Park City, Utah.

On February 17, three skiers dropped into a ridgeline on Dutch Draw, Conehead. Usually accessed via Park City Mountain’s Peak 5 gates, the southeast-facing aspect offers a steep, open pitch with powder to spare. The first two skiers made neatly spaced turns down without incident. But for the third, it was a different story.

Skiing to the left of the previous two, the last one down made three sweeping turns before an avalanche broke free. Estimated at 50 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep by the Utah Avalanche Center, the slide began barreling down in a split second.

But thankfully, the skier was vigilant and instantly made a right turn across the pitch. They were well clear of the debris field when the slide ended.

Skier among big mountain terrain
Guillame Groult via Unsplash

How to avoid being caught in an avalanche

Backcountry skiing and riding offer next-level terrain and snow. But it’s also dangerous. Understanding snowpack and avalanches is an art and science, so taking serious precautions ensures your safety. Here are some ways to stay safe. 

  • Avalanche education, smart decisions, and rescue practice can all contribute to everyone staying safe in the mountains. Further, having the proper backcountry equipment — like beacons, shovels, probes, and airbags — gives you the tools you need to navigate new territory. 
  • When new to the backcountry, we’d go with a certified guide from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) or the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA). Not only does that ensure safety, but it provides an opportunity to learn and grow as a backcountry enthusiast.
  • Beyond that, try taking a class from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) to learn the finer points of planning and preparing for backcountry expeditions. Then, when you set out on the skin track, you’ll know what to look for.

Exploring backcountry terrain offers abundant snow and awe-inspiring lines. But it can be hazardous. As one skier found out, an avalanche can occur without warning, demanding quick reflexes to escape. In that instance, an immediate turn helped them steer clear. To avoid a slide altogether, education is essential, along with the proper equipment. Then, you have the tools for mountain exploration. 

Mark Reif
Mark Reif is a writer from Stowe, Vermont. During the winter, he works as a snowboard coach and rides more than 100 days. The…
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