Salt Lake man dies in avalanche in Dutch Canyon
February 24, 2012
A 24-year-old Salt Lake City man died Thursday evening after being buried in an avalanche in Dutch Canyon near Canyons ski resort.
The man was identified as Timothy Robert Baker by the Summit County Sheriff’s Department. The avalanche happened outside of Canyons’ boundaries but the area can be accessed through a gate from the ski resort’s Ninety-nine 90 Lift.
At 3 p.m. the Summit County Dispatch Center received a 911 call from a witness who reported someone being buried in an avalanche. Bridge said the Summit County Search and Rescue and Canyons Ski Patrol responded to the scene.
"We found the male at 4 p.m. and he was transported by helicopter to a Salt Lake City hospital in extremely serious condition," Bridge said.
Baker, who was snowboarding with a group of friends out of bounds, was the first one to go down the slope, triggering the avalanche. Some of his friends witnessed the slide and saw Baker become buried, Bridge said. No one else was involved in the slide or injured.
No one in Baker’s group was equipped with avalanche rescue equipment, according to Bridge. Rescuers were unable to access the area with snowmobiles and had to ski down the slope to reach the area where witnesses indicated Baker was buried. According to Dean Cardinale with Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, members of Baker’s group had located him prior to rescue crews arriving by using ski poles as probes.
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"Baker was buried under three feet of snow and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital," Bridge said.
He added that the slide was about 15 feet wide at the top and over 90 feet wide at the bottom and traveled over 900 feet. He would not confirm if Baker had accessed the backcountry area through Canyons. The area is popular with backcountry skiers and is the same location where 27-year old Idaho native Shane Maixner died in an avalanche in 2005.
Baker’s death marked the fourth avalanche fatality in Utah this season, according to Craig Gordon, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. With sporadic storms and warm temperatures, it has been an unpredictable avalanche season, Gordon said.
"We have had long dry spells in between storms and that has made the conditions tricky and dangerous. There are weak levels of snowpack mixed in with the fresh snow. Wednesday night we had raging winds which created a hard slab on top of the weak and crusty old snow, which makes it very susceptible to sliding," explained Gordon.
He added that during winters with heavy snowfall, avalanches are easier to predict, but during seasons such as this one, slides break deeper and are harder to manage.
"People need to make sure they are managing their terrain choices when they go into the backcountry and think of the consequences," he said. A high avalanche warning had been issued by the Utah Avalanche Center Thursday morning for the region Baker was in.
Tim Baker remembered
"Unforgettable" is the word Jarad Poor uses when talking about Tim Baker. Poor manages Legend’s Bar and Grill at Park City Mountain Resort and said Baker had worked there as a cook and waiter for four years. This season Baker worked right across the street at The Corner Store.
"He was an awesome kid," Poor said. "An interesting person who was quite emotional, yet everyone got along with because he cared so much. He was one of those people who really wanted to succeed and was an avid snowboarder who was up on the mountain riding all the time."
Poor said the Legend’s staff was saddened when they heard the news and will miss Baker.
"You could always joke around with him" he said. "Everyone who knew him will remember him."
Jeff Jacobs, manager of The Corner Store, said that Baker was a good worker and full of energy.
"He was excited about life and snowboarding," Jacobs said. "He was a good guy who worked here so that he could snowboard and do what he loved."