Avalanches And The Human Factor

Feb 19, 2021

On Feb. 6 of this year, two groups of skiers went into Salt Lake City’s Millcreek Canyon for a day of powdery ski runs in the backcountry. 

They were experienced skiers, knowledgeable about the dangers of avalanches but were still caught by the uncertain, shifting conditions of a snow-packed mountainside. Four young people lost their lives that day. In the wake of this tragedy, we look at the history of avalanches, the snow science behind the slides and, critically, the human factor. Snow careening down a mountain generally only matters to us insofar that it affects humans. We’ll talk with three avalanche experts about what an avalanche is and what it means to us this Friday at noon. 

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this show, our guest Dave Richards, in his capacity as an independent avalanche investigator, states that the Wilson Glades avalanche was triggered by one individual. In keeping with the Utah Avalanche Center’s assessment of the avalanche, we have edited our show to reflect that the findings on the cause of the avalanche are inconclusive.


  • Dave Richards, director of the Alta Ski Area Avalanche Office 
  • Sarah Carpenter, co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute and lead avalanche course instructor
  • Drew Hardesty, avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center