One of the deadliest avalanches in Utah history claims 4 skiers

Stock photo.| Photo by Credit: med_ved/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — Four backcountry skiers in their 20s died when one of the deadliest avalanches in Utah history hit a popular canyon above Salt Lake City, police said Sunday.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Search and Rescue crews respond to the top of Millcreek Canyon where four skiers died in an avalanche. Feb. 7, 2021, near Salt Lake City, Utah | Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune/Associated Press, St. George News

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 avalanche equaled the four people who died Feb. 12, 1992, after an avalanche in the Gold Basin of Moab, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

The Saturday incident also comes nearly two years to the day of one of the larger avalanches in Southern Utah history, when a large avalanche on Feb. 7, 2019, in the Circleville Mountains claimed the life of the proprietor of Stapley Pharmacy, Brad Stapley.

The skiers in the Salt Lake County incident 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 from the spot where they were swept up by the skier-trigged avalanche in Millcreek Canyon.

“Our backcountry outdoor community is very connected so this type of loss touches many people and really is heartbreaking,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “These are people who love doing what they did and lived life to the fullest.”

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 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.

St. George News Weekend Editor/reporter Chris Reed contributed to this story.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

 

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