SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (KTVX) — Two Utah snowmobilers trapped overnight in the snow constructed a snow cave to stay warm until they could be rescued, according to a local sheriff’s office.
The pair had gone out at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning for what they thought was a day trip.
Summit County Search and Rescue said they received an SOS alert from a satellite communication (spot) device, but it wasn’t easy getting to the two snowmobilers, who were stuck near Fish Lake, located in a mountainous area of the state.
At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Search and Rescue were still attempting to locate the snowmobilers who were stranded overnight because of a storm.
Sgt. Felicia Sotelo of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said there were multiple reasons that the search and rescue mission was so difficult, including deep snow and very steep terrains. She said the two men had gone into a bowl and were unable to get out. They were also low on fuel and essentially stranded.
“They had a spot communication device which allowed them to communicate with an emergency contact that they had pre-set up,” Sotelo said.
According to REI, a spot communication device is a satellite device that allows you to send short messages to saved contacts and has a much larger coverage area than a normal phone. Depending on the subscription, you can also send your GPS location to emergency services.
Sotelo said because of this, the rescue team was ultimately able to find and rescue the snowmobilers. She said that they also notified their family where they were going beforehand, and that made a huge difference.
When the men realized they were stranded, they built a snow cave in order to wait out the storm for the night, built a fire, and were believed to have sufficient gear, Sotelo said.
“Obviously no one wants to spend the night unexpectedly in the snow,” Sotelo said. “But they did have at least some backcountry experience and knowledge to keep themselves sheltered during the storm overnight.”
Sotelo said that a rescue team with seven snowmobile sleds went to search for them, but it took them several hours to get there. She said it takes time to get gear and mobilize for a rescue effort in the backcountry.
SAR was able to find the snowmobilers in the morning, and get them home safely.