Utah man ditches car, skis to avoid lengthy, avalanche-prompted detour

Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-09 16:36:40-05

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

William Perry was driving back from a day of skiing 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 from 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 it did raise 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,” Dupaix said. “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.

He 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 said.

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 looks from people."

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,’” Perry said.

So he stopped skiing and hitched a ride with them.

Perry said, “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.