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Man ditches car, skis down mountain after avalanche closes highway

Posted at 9:49 AM, Mar 12, 2019

PROVO, Utah — After an avalanche prompted the closure of Provo Canyon, a Utah man decided to bypass the lengthy detour with a little backcountry skiing.

Utahn William Perry was driving back from a day of skiing in Park City Friday afternoon when two avalanches prompted the closure of the canyon road he needed to take to get home.

“With the rain and the snow that we’ve had up in the mountains it created a really wet and heavy snowpack,” explained Geoff Dupaix with the Utah Department of Transportation.

The first slide, which occurred near mile marker 12 on U.S. 189, left a pile of snow 30 feet wide and eight to ten feet high in the westbound lanes.

The second avalanche, which occurred a few miles up the canyon near mile marker 8, didn’t reach the road but raised enough concern for UDOT to shut down the canyon for avalanche mitigation.

“This is just one instance where there’s enough snowpack and enough wet heavy snow that triggered these slides,” said Dupaix. “These are two normal slide paths so it really is just a coincidence that they came down around the same time."

Perry was one of many drivers who was told to turn around and pointed in the direction of a lengthy two and a half hour detour.

“I just ditched my car, I had all of my backcountry ski gear in the back,” Perry said still holding his skis and poles.

William decided to use the avalanche as an opportunity to extend his ski day and break in some new gear.

“I’ve got an avalanche probe, beacon, a bivvy bag, shovel, an emergency blanket, extra water, headlamp. I got all the gear, so I figured why not?” Perry smiled.

He toured along the Provo River, successfully avoiding the detour.

“I just went around everyone that was doing all of the avalanche clearing,” Perry said. “I think I got some interesting laughs from people,” he chuckled.

Eventually, some folks from UDOT caught up to him.

“They were like, ‘Hey, hurry up because we’re going to start doing blasting in about 20 minutes,’” said Perry.

So he stopped skiing and hitched a ride with them instead.

“He just gave us a ride to the mouth of the canyon and the police officer was like, ‘Yeah man, sounds good!’”

It's a ski day Perry said he’ll never forget.

“I’m always up for an adventure, deciding to ski out of an avalanche area? Haven’t done that,” Perry laughed.

Provo Canyon was closed for just under four hours while crews did avalanche control, the road reopened just before 9 p.m. Friday.