Bend guide helps save man after Utah avalanche

Backcountry-goers urged to be prepared

POSTED: 11:33 PM PST February 11, 2013    UPDATED: 12:40 PM PST February 14, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

A Bend man urges you to be prepared if you ever plan on heading into the backcountry, and he should know: Recently, he helped dig out a man trapped in an avalanche at Utah's Alta Ski Area.

"By the time we got to his face, he was unconscious," Todd Glew, a guide with Timberline Mountain Guides in Bend.

It happened Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. on the 'Silver Fork Headwall' in the Big Cotton Canyon in Utah. The Utah Avalanche Center says the avalanche was nearly 350 feet long and 2.5 feet deep.

The incident report says that two skiers had skinned up the canyon in an attempt to ski down.

The incident report states: "The skier on the ridge line did a first slope cut on the small hanging snowfield above a cliff.  He stopped, and then inched forward to start a second slope cut, when a shallow soft slab fractured a couple feet above him.  He tried to self-arrest, then get out to skier's right, but ended up being carried over the cliff."

Glew, who was not guiding the two men, watched as the avalanche rumbled down the hill side.

"He (the second skier) was filming, and he yelled 'Avalanche!' and said one was caught," Glew said. "He began digging, and I began digging, then we got to his hand and saw his hand was moving, so he was still conscious at the time."

The report says the man escaped uninjured and was able to ski back down to Alta.

For Glew, his years of training kicked in immediately.     

"That's the first time I have ever had to do that," Glew said. "It worked out pretty well that I was quick on my feet."

"He did everything correctly and quickly and was able to save this mans life," Carlos Cummings, the office manager of Timberline Mountain Guides' Bend office.

Cummings says anyone headed into the backcountry needs to be prepared with the necessary gear.

"I would strongly suggest that you at least consider taking a Level 1 avalanche safety course," Cummings said.

Over the last few years, the Central Oregon Avalanche Association has also been working to make the back country experience more safe.

They recently put up large warning signs at Dutchman Flat, Paulina and Three Creeks sno-parks, reminding those headed out to check their locator beacons.

"It (the sign) also has a beacon checker that will light up if someone wearing an avalanche beacon walks by it," Jon Trapper of COAA said.