Utah Avalanche Forecaster Killed

Died checking the snowpack


For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today and save 20 percent.

In a rare on-the-job tragedy, a veteran avalanche forecaster was killed in a snow slide Thursday afternoon. The Utah Department of Transportation employee was checking the stability of a snowpack in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range. 

Craig Patterson, 34, often went on solo trips to assess safety conditions around the Brighton and Solitude ski resorts. Rising afternoon temperatures can sometimes lead to shifting on steep slopes around Kessler Peak, so Patterson was gauging the changing snow conditions.

It appears that Patterson had been able to deploy an avalanche air bag and was wearing an AvaLung.

His death is unusual considering his preparedness and the rarity of job-related deaths for avalanche forecasters. Only two other American forecasters have died on the job, according to the American Avalanche Association.