CACHE COUNTY, Utah — A group of snowmobilers are unharmed after they were able to self-rescue following an early-season avalanche near the Utah-Idaho state line.
“That means it’s on,” Kaden Price said as he fired up his avalanche backpack in his Cache County home.
“I always reach up and try to grab it,” he said, mimicking the motion as he pretended to pull at the backpack’s ripcord.
Right now, Kaden is checking his avalanche gear.
“For avalanche stuff, I carry a shovel, I carry a probe, I wear a beacon and I wear my avalanche bag,” he listed.
“I haven’t charged it since Saturday,” he said as he pointed to a small gauge with lights on the ripcord.
Kaden continued, as he slowly dissected his backpack and turned on and off his beacon. Then with a sharp pull, a red balloon launched from the backpack and inflated in a matter of seconds.
“They take a minute to re-pack,” he said as he shoved the now deflated balloon back into the bag.
Testing each item is a lengthy process, but it’s one that may have saved his life.
“We were just up snowmobiling, fresh snow came last weekend — I was pretty excited to get out, just bought a new snowmobile this year,” Kaden said.
Kaden and two friends were snowmobiling in the Bear River Range, just north of the Utah-Idaho state line.
“We weren’t really going to ride hard that day, just kind of take it easy,” Kaden said.
Then a few hours in, he had gone up the mountain to help one of the guys get his snowmobile turned around. He said another rider must not have seen them stopped and drove passed them, triggering a slide.
“I saw the snow pushing up against his snowmobile, and rolling it on top of him,” Kaden said.
The day hadn’t gone as planned, but his instincts kicked in.
“The first thing that went through my mind was a bad word,” Kaden said. “I ripped my [avalanche backpack], that was like the first thing I went for.”
Kaden said he could feel the snow grab his pack and push him along.
“I thought, ‘try and swim, swim, swim, swim, swim,’ trying to like sit myself up, I felt it stop and luckily I could still see light,” said Kaden.
In just 15 seconds the slide had carried the two riders a few dozen feet. Thankfully, Kaden’s pack had kept him atop the snow. He was only stuck waist-deep, but roughly 30 feet away, his friend was buried.
“I just dug, dug, dug, dug, dug and I could see his goggles, so I grabbed his helmet and yanked his head up out of the snow,” Kaden said.
“Two of us got caught up a little bit," Kaden can be heard saying in a video he took in the aftermath of the slide. "Luckily, I didn’t get buried and was able to get to him in time."
It was a moment he will never forget, but Kaden said he doesn’t consider himself a ‘survivor,’ just very lucky and well prepared.
“I believe it kept me up on the surface,” Kaden said as his avalanche pack sat at his feet.
That one item was a $1,100 investment — but to Kaden, it’s priceless.
“It’s not more expensive than what you're worth, you know?” Kaden said. “1100 dollars is really cheap compared to what the outcome might have been.”
Kaden said the first thing he did after the slide was call his wife to tell her he loved her.
“It was a little, kind of heart-wrenching, because other people’s family members weren’t so lucky,” Kaden said.
Now, he hopes his story will inspire other riders to carry the appropriate gear and check avalanche safety reports prior to hitting the backcountry.
Current avalanche safety reports can be found on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website.