This past Monday, an avalanche dragged a backcountry skier into a Utah ravine and buried her in snow, but the woman survived because she deployed a special air bag and other skiers were able to quickly dig her out. The skier descended into a steep gully filled with loose snow in Grizzly Gulch, a short distance from the Alta ski area east of Salt Lake City.

Witnesses witnessed the slide and immediately went to work rescuing the skier. An avalanche beacon and a probe were used to find her location, then she was shoveled out. She was buried in several feet of snow.

The woman was swept about 100 feet down the gully at an angle approaching 40 degrees, according to a report on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website ( ). It happened in an area where ski patrol members don’t do any avalanche control work, such as triggering slides before they can occur naturally and hurt someone.

It was the first time this season that a person was rescued from an avalanche in Utah.The Utah Avalanche Center reports that Utah averages about 100 skiers triggering avalanches, 30 get caught in the slides, and four die from them.

The woman pulled a ripcord on an air bag-equipped backpack – a European-style safety device that is becoming more common in the Rocky Mountain backcountry. The skier’s descent into the gully was so steep and short that her air bag had little time to work at keeping her above the slide. It probably kept her from getting buried longer, and under much deeper snow, officials said.  For more information on the air bag safety gear, read Avy Airbags Saves Lives.

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