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Early-season avalanche buries skier

/ Source: NBC News and news services

An early-season avalanche on Tuesday swept away four experienced backcountry skiers,  burying one who was quickly found only because he was wearing a tracking device.

"I tried wiggling my face to try and get an air pocket" to breathe, Steven Lloyd recalled. He then started to slow his breathing and passed out.

His friends were able to find him since he and they were wearing tracking beacons. After 15 minutes of digging, they found him unconscious. On being pulled out, Lloyd quickly began breathing on his own.

The skiers were in the upper Silver Fork basin near Solitude ski resort, about 18 miles east of Salt Lake City.

They were skiing in more than a foot of fresh snow at an elevation of about 10,000 feet when an avalanche broke loose off a jagged ridge that separates Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Paul Jaroscak said the skiers were experienced and had the necessary equipment to call for help.

"Two people were flown out by helicopter, and of those two, one of them was the one who was buried. ... The other two people skied out with rescuers who skied out to meet them," Jaroscak said.

None of the skiers experienced any injuries, he said.

The U.S. Forest Service agency said the fresh snow and high winds combined Tuesday to create dangerous conditions.

"There was widespread avalanche activity," said Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center. "The ski resorts, when they did avalanche control, got widespread slides. That's what our staff found in the backcountry."

Tremper said the new snow was sliding easily off a snowpack more than 2 feet deep.