Franklin County Search & Rescue Team assisted Bear Lake and Caribou County search & rescue teams in an attempt to rescue a snowmobiler following an avalanche east of Mt. Sherman on Feb. 20.
The call for help came into dispatch at about 11 a.m. Two people were looking for a third person who had been with them when the avalanche occurred. Local S&R members in the Birch Creek area headed immediately north to try to help. It took about an hour for help to reach the people who had reported the avalanche.
Other riders on snowmachines in the area began to conduct a search using a search line with snow probes. The missing snowmobiler’s sled was located and clues were found on where to look for the missing person. He was located under a large amount of snow and deceased when found.
Bear Lake County Search & Rescue (BLSO) identified the victim as 48-year-old Allen Foss of Preston. They recovered his body and transported it off the mountain.
Recent snowfall has drawn people to the mountains. Copenhagen Basin parking lot was filled with vehicles used to transport snowmobiles on Feb. 20. Avalanches have occurred frequently in the area since the snow arrived in abundance at the first of the month. Because it was wet snow, falling on a weak base of powdery snow, the mountains have become very dangerous, states reports from the Utah Avalanche Center.
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 S&R from helping to find stranded snowmobilers between Egan Basin and Beaver Creek on Feb. 17. While the local team was re-routing, Cache County Search & Rescue went in from the Utah side of the area and was able to reach them, said Josh Purser of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
“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 some 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,” he said.
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. The BLSO agrees, and emphasized that backcountry conditions are extremely dangerous at this time.
Feb. 24 Update: The Utah Avalanche Center compiled and released a preliminary report on the avalanche that can be found here.