PARK CITY, Utah -- An avalanche outside a ski resort yesterday trapped at least one backcountry skier, authorities said.
About 40 search-and-rescue workers, dog crews, and ski patrol members fanned out across the area in Utah after the avalanche, Sheriff Dave Edmunds said. He could confirm there was one trapped skier. Edmunds discounted reports by some television outlets that said as many as 15 people had been trapped. "That is erroneous," he said.
"We are going to work this as long as it takes, whether it's a rescue or recovery operation," he said during a brief news conference at a command center set up to look for possible victims.
An emergency helicopter was dispatched from Salt Lake City, about 20 miles away, said LDS Hospital spokesman Jess Gomez.
The slide is "huge," said skier Jess Fleig, speaking by cellphone. "It ripped from the very top, from side to side, and the debris goes all the way down through the valley below and through the trees."
A series of storms over two weeks dropped 6 to 8 feet of wet, heavy snow on the mountains, setting up prime conditions for avalanches. The Utah Avalanche Center warned of considerable danger yesterday.
"We're recommending people avoid being on or underneath any steep slopes," said Bruce Tremper, director of the center.
Tremper said the slide occurred outside The Canyons resort in Park City. It is an out-of-bounds area next to The Canyons, but the resort "can't close it off. It would be like trying to close a city park," Tremper said.
Fleig said he avoided the popular backcountry area known as Dutch Draw yesterday.
"I looked at that ride probably 20 or 30 minutes before it went, and what immediately came to mind is that's trouble waiting to happen," the 35-year-old disc jockey said.
Numerous ski tracks were visible, he added.
"You have to hike 10 or 15 minutes to get there, but it's marked with skull and crossbones and a warning that you could die," he said.