A local snowmobiler is dead after a Saturday morning avalanche in Southeast Idaho.
Authorities said Allen Foss, 48, of Preston, died in the avalanche in the area of Sherman Peak between Grace and Montpelier.
The incident prompted the Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office to issue a press release Saturday night warning the public about the very hazardous avalanche conditions that currently exist in Southeast Idaho.
The press release stated: “The Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office would like to emphasize that backcountry conditions are extremely dangerous at this time. With the recent heavy snowfall and existing snow conditions, avalanche danger is high. Use extreme caution while recreating, do not go alone, and carry emergency/rescue equipment including avalanche beacons.”
Search and rescue teams from Franklin, Bear Lake and Caribou counties responded to Saturday’s avalanche and with help from other snowmobilers in the area were able to find Foss’ body buried under a large amount of snow.
The incident was reported around 11 a.m. Saturday after two people who escaped the avalanche couldn’t find Foss, who had been with them when the slide struck.
It took about an hour for the search and rescue teams to reach the scene.
Foss’ sled was found prior to him being discovered deceased.
The Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office stated in its press release: “Searchers continued to operate under precarious conditions and were able to retrieve the victim’s body and transport it off the mountain.”
Recent snowfall has drawn people to the mountains of Southeast Idaho and northern Utah. Copenhagen Basin parking lot was filled with vehicles used to transport snowmobiles on Saturday.
Avalanches have occurred frequently in the area since the snow arrived in abundance earlier this month. Because it was wet snow, falling on a weak base of powdery snow, the mountains have become very dangerous, the Utah Avalanche Center reported.
Between Feb. 13 and Feb. 20, there have been 14 recorded avalanches in Cache Valley, on both sides of the state line. All of them were triggered naturally, except one.
That number doesn’t include unrecorded avalanches, such as one in Hillyard Canyon near Willow Flats which prevented Franklin County Search and Rescue from helping to find stranded snowmobilers between Egan Basin and Beaver Creek on Wednesday.
While the Franklin County team was re-routing, Cache County Search and Rescue went in from the Utah side of the area and was able to reach the snowmobilers, said Josh Purser of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
Purser said, “These conditions make it extremely difficult to get crews and equipment into the backcountry. We urge everyone to be careful and use caution when riding. Carry proper equipment such as avalanche packs, beacons, shovels, and most importantly always come prepared to survive the night or cold temps in case you get stuck or lost. Be familiar with the area and check avalanche reports before riding.”
Even with proper preparation, danger lurks below this year’s beautiful snow.
“Snow conditions at the moment are more dangerous than they have been in a long time,” said Purser.