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Salt Lake Tribune
A group of Boy Scouts on a winter excursion east of Beaver in southwestern Utah, who accidentally triggered an avalanche that trapped four of them in 5 feet of snow Friday, may be charged the cost of their rescue, according to Beaver County search and rescue crews.
The troop was cross-country skiing in Merchant Valley, about three miles west of the Elk Meadows Ski Resort. "The scouts left at about 8 or 8:30 a.m. to go do some skiing in the back country and they were going to dig some snow caves and do some wilderness survival overnight," said Bob Koler, Beaver County search and rescue commander. "On their way up [to the campsite] they got in about a mile and they triggered the avalanche."
The group of 20 Scouts were from Orem and St. George. Four Scouts were trapped for about five minutes before they were freed by other Scouts. A Scout leader flagged down a car near the resort and contacted authorities. The boys were taken to Beaver Valley Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. One was kept overnight for observation.
They were skiing across a ridge when the snow came down from above and hit them, said Elk Meadows spokeswoman Tina Stewell. Search and rescue officers, Forest Service rangers, the Elk Meadows ski patrol and volunteers with snowmobiles aided in the rescue. Authorities spent four hours evacuating the area because of the danger of more avalanches.
This was the first avalanche reported in that area.
"This was a class 3 avalanche," Stewell said. "It could bury a bus and you wouldn't find it until spring."
She described the avalanche as 100 yards wide and at least 3 feet deep. The Scouts who were buried in the snow ran the risk of suffocation. Their inexperience in the area also counted against them, she said.
"They were so lucky. It was a miracle they were only buried for a few minutes. The area they were in had unstable conditions all year. There are back-country guides that should be guiding these people, that know how to test the snow, who have the right equipment," she said.
Beaver County search and rescue crews plan to watch the Merchant Valley area more closely. Koler said it was a close call for the entire troop. "They were extremely lucky they didn't die out there," he said.
The Beaver County Sheriff's Office is investigating the avalanche.