Farmington Lakes Avalanche Report

January 24th, 2020

Dear Snowmobiling Community,

We have been asked to share with you the accident report from the UAC of the fatal avalanche at Farmington Lake. You can find the full report at http://bit.ly/FarmingtonAvyFB and the video below. Our deepest condolences go to Chase Adam’s family and friends. Any death in our community is a huge loss, so we hope that all snowmobilers will take time to read through this report and learn lessons from this tragic accident.

Some key takeaways for all snowmobilers from this report include:

We aim to learn from accidents like this and in no way intend to point fingers at victims. All of us at the Utah Avalanche Center have had our own close calls and know how easy it is to make mistakes. Our intention is for this report to offer a learning opportunity. For that reason we have the following comments.

(1) This slope ended in a terrain trap that is not obvious like a creek or gully. Because there was such an abrupt transition from a steep slope to a perfectly flat slope (the frozen lake), the debris piled up very deeply.

(2) Deep burials (greater than 6 feet deep) are very difficult to survive. Even shallow burials require exhausting digging to reach a buried person because avalanche debris sets up like concrete. It is very dense and heavy, and it makes the digging very time consuming and grueling work.

(3) Avalanche airbags are great lifesaving devices that can decrease mortality from 22% to 11%. However, they are not a sure thing. On January 1st in Montana, a snowmobiler was buried 7.5 feet deep with a deployed airbag. Read more about the statistics HERE or the detailed scientific study HERE. In the case of this accident, even though Chase deployed his airbag, he was fully buried because the debris ran into a terrain trap.Of note: Since last winter at this time, there have been 6 avalanche fatalities in Utah in which the victim or someone in their party was missing critical safety gear which includes an avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel, and partner(s) in a safe location ready to respond.

Photo of burial location from UAC. The probe is held with 180 cm at the surface. The total depth of the excavation was 11 feet.

Please “Know Before You Go.” If you have never done any avalanche training, start now by joining your local club and attending a USA Motorized Basics class to learn to use your beacon and introduction. Then get into a companion rescue course or moto 101 class on UAC’s website https://utahavalanchecenter.org/education/uac-kbyg-classes. There is a Moto Backcountry 101 on Feb 6 and 8, Companion Rescue on Feb 15, and Moto Backcountry 101 on Feb 27 and Mar 1.

Then get into a full Avalanche 1 course, the following providers have courses specific to snowmobilers:

AIARE Motorized Providers

Mountain Riding Lab, The
Location: Jackson, WY
Website: www.themountainridinglab.com Classes Offered: Motorized AIARE Level 1, Motorized AIARE Rescue,
Motorized AIARE Level 2

Mountain Skills with Matt Entz
Location: South Fork, CO
Website: https://mountainskillz.com/ Classes Offered: Avalanche Awareness, Motorized AIARE Level 1

NXT LVL Riding Clinics
Location: Alpine, WY
Website: www.nextlevelclinics.com Classes Offered: Avalanche Awareness/Refresher Clinic

Ride Rasmussen Style
Location: West Yellowstone, MT Website: www.riderasmussenstyle.com Classes Offered: Motorized AIARE Level 1, Motorized AIARE Rescue,
Motorized AIARE Level 2

Tyler’s Backcountry Awareness
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Website: backcountryawareness.org Classes Offered: Motorized AIARE Level 1, Motorized AIARE Rescue

Weston Deutschlander
Location: Park City, UT
Contact: info@inspiredsummit.com, or call Weston at 716-472-7405
Classes Offered: Motorized AIARE Level 1, Motorized AIARE Rescue,
Motorized AIARE Level 2

AAA Motorized Providers

Backcountry Institute
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Website: https://backcountryinstitute.com
Classes Offered: Motorized Backcountry 101, Motorized Avalanche Level 1

Tracked Out Adventures
Location: Saratoga Springs, UT
Website: trackedoutadventures.com
Classes Offered: Motorized Avalanche Level 1