Couple skiers who set out from Alta Ski Resort early Friday intending to ski the south face of Superior ended up having a hell of day after missing their line, getting cliffed out and requiring a helicopter rescue in the cover of darkness near Mount Superior.
The pair had been enjoying turns in excellent snow until encountering a cliff band which blocked downhill progress. They realized they were not on the south face of Superior and as they had no technical gear to rappel or knowledge of a “sneak route” around the cliffs, they decided to call for a rescue.
Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue got the call at 8:20 p.m. Friday evening to assist two skiers in Little Cottonwood Canyon stuck on a ledge unable to ski down or climb back up. When crews arrived on scene, they observed the stranded skiers with the naked eye and through night-vision optics. The Gephardt Daily reports it was decided the skiers should make their way back up to the summit of Superior where they would have the option to descend either the south face or back down the approach route.
A team of four was deployed on skis, using the approach route and intending to reach and supply the patients with warm clothing, headlamps, food and water before skiing back down with them.
A helicopter with a spotlight lit up their location for those on the ground as darkness fell. A team of rescuers were able to watch the skiers slow progress uphill from a spot on LCC road below Snowbird, using night vision and thermal imaging optics. After a short time, the DPS crew was available, flew to the patients’ location, and determined they could hoist them off the mountain.
As the ground team was an hour or more away and the patients still had considerable elevation to gain the summit, a hoist operation was chosen. It was also around 15 degrees on the mountain and the skiers had been out for more than 8 hours. The hoist operation went smoothly and soon both patients were back at Alta base. The ground team was recalled, made a few turns in the dark and returned to command safely. All were off the mountain by 11:30 pm.
Cheers to SLCo SAR for a well executed rescue and a great reminder to keep your bearing at all times in the backcountry or you might not be as lucky as these dudes. FULL STATEMENT BELOW