Utah Avalanche Kills 4 Backcountry Skiers

The victims were in their 20s
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 7, 2021 3:01 PM CST
Utah Avalanche Kills 4 Backcountry Skiers
Salt Lake County Sheriff Search and Rescue crews respond to the top of Millcreek Canyon where four skiers died in an avalanche Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, near Salt Lake City.   (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Four backcountry skiers in their 20s died when one of the deadliest avalanches in Utah history hit a popular backcountry skiing area, the AP reports. Four other people were also buried in the Saturday slide but managed to dig themselves out and didn’t suffer serious injuries, according to Unified Police of Salt Lake County. The skiers were from two separate groups, and all eight had prepared with the necessary avalanche safety gear, authorities said. The four killed were all from the Salt Lake City area, not far the spot where they were swept up by the skier-trigged avalanche in Millcreek Canyon. Three of the deceased were identified as Salt Lake City residents: Louis Holian and Stephanie Hopkins, both 26, and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher, 23. The fourth, 29-year-old Sarah Moughamian was from the suburb of Sandy, Utah.

They were experienced skiers who were well known in the community, Drew Hardesty with the Utah Avalanche Center told the Salt Lake Tribune. The avalanche danger around Salt Lake was high on Saturday, the center said as it tweeted out a warning hours before the avalanche. A faint distress call from an avalanche beacon alerted police to the slide shortly before noon on Saturday. The survivors found their four companions and dug them out, but they were already dead, police said. The still-unstable snow conditions kept rescuers from immediately recovering the bodies; recovering operations resumed on Sunday morning. Avalanches have also claimed other lives in recent days: the bodies of three hikers were found near Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday. In Colorado, four backcountry skiers have died in two separate slides in the last week.

(More avalanche stories.)

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