Tragedy has struck again this week as another young snow sports enthusiast has lost their life at the hands of an avalanche. Timothy Robert Baker, a 24 year old Park City native was riding in an out-of-bounds area near Canyons Ski Resort when a 15-foot wide avalanche was triggered around 3pm on Thursday. Baker was consumed by the fast moving snow mass and was buried by over 3 feet of snow. After being recovered, he was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Baker was spending the day riding with friends at Canyons. The group decided to embark upon some backcountry slopes and accessed an area known as Dutch Canyon. This specific run is easily reached from the top of the Ninety Nine 90 chair lift, and while it is extremely popular among backcountry enthusiasts, it is notorious for being prone to avalanches. Dutch Canyon actually claimed a life back in 2005 when a massive avalanche (16 acres wide and 30 feet deep) killed 27-year old Shane Maxiner.
Baker was the first member of the group to make the descent. After making a few turns, the snow gave away and the other members of the group watched helplessly as their friend was consumed by the deadly avalanche.
Rescue efforts were stifled by the unstable terrain which prevented crews from utilizing snowmobiles in their recovery efforts. They were instead forced to ski down from the top of the mountain to recover the victim’s body. While it is unclear whether time was a factor in Baker’s cause of death, in these types of accidents every moment counts.
The Utah Avalanche Center reported that the snowboarder triggered what is known as a “graupel slab,” which is created when small snow pellets roll off cliffs and pool on the flatter terrain below. The slopes had received serval inches of new snow between Wednesday night and into the early morning that contributed to the unstable terrain conditions.
Ronald Bridge, of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office confirmed reports that Baker was not wearing any type of avalanche safety equipment at the time of the accident.