Patroller OK after avalanche in Utah

Steamboat woman was buried for nearly six minutes

— A Steamboat ski patroller who was buried in a backcountry avalanche in Utah for nearly six minutes has returned home in good condition.

Liz Bristle was swept away in an avalanche shortly before noon on Friday while she was skiing along a backcountry ridge near Solitude.

She had stopped breathing before a Solitude ski patroller and two other Steamboat ski patrollers dug her out of four feet of snow. The 29-year-old started breathing soon after being rescued and was airlifted in good condition to Salt Lake City's University Hospital, which was about 15 miles away.

"I am telling you, she is a lucky girl," said Marni Montgomery, who was part of the Salt Lake County sheriff's team that responded to the accident. "She had the right equipment, the right people up there. She couldn't have been skiing with better people."

Montgomery said avalanches are common in that area. Accidents occur each year and Solitude has a full time avalanche forecaster. Solitude spokesman Jay Burke said the avalanche forecast for Friday was low to moderate.

Bristle, who could not be reached for comment, was on a ski patrol exchange program with the Solitude ski resort and was skiing with the group in the Twin Lakes Pass area, which is near Brighton and Solitude ski resorts.

Bristle was with Steamboat Ski Resort Ski Patrollers Becky Kuhl and Remi Pettellat and the leader of the group, Solitude Ski Patroller Scott Rodgers. The Steamboat patrollers had been there for four to five days.

Bristle was released from the hospital on Friday. The Steamboat crew arrived back in town on Saturday and is expected to return to work today.

Burke said Rodgers made the first cut across the slope Friday checking for stability and terrain. Then, Bristle dropped in and made two to three turns before triggering the avalanche, which swept down the mountain for about 100 yards.

Rodgers watched the avalanche travel down the mountain and had an idea of where Bristle was before the avalanche stopped in a gully, Montgomery said.

It took three minutes before the avalanche settled, and then the crew skied down and used avalanche beacons to help locate Bristle. Montgomery said they found Bristle's ski first and started digging nearby.

Burke said when Bristle was uncovered, she was slightly blue and a helmet strap was blocking her airway. When the strapped was removed, Bristle gasped for air.

"It was a textbook rescue," Burke said. "They did a phenomenal job," Burke said.

Montgomery said it would have taken 10 to 15 minutes before outside help would have arrived.

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