'Extremist' Dies in Freak Avalanche at Utah Resort

A young woman killed in a rare avalanche at a Utah ski resort over the weekend was remembered Monday as an avid skier who lived for deep powder.

Heather Gross, 27, of Salt Lake City, died Sunday afternoon after an avalanche buried her under the snow for nearly an hour at in-bound terrain at Snowbird ski resort.

"Heather was kind of an extremist," her sister Emily Gross told FOX News. "She was on a peak called Mount Baldy, and although it is in the bounds, it is in country that you can only access by hiking. She liked to find the deepest powder so she always went up there."

Officials said an avalanche struck around 12:20 p.m. as Heather Gross skied down the mountain with a friend.

"That timeframe, being trapped in an avalanche for that amount of time, tumbling down a mountain, it’s dangerous," Levi Hughes, of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department, told MyFOXUtah.com. "It’s a serious situation."

Officials at Snowbird said they set avalanche charges earlier in the day.

"We really appreciate all the people who took part in the search," Dave Fields of the resort told MyFOXUtah.com. "We had a lot of our guests out there on the mountain probing with their skis and it was amazing the response we got."

Two doctors were on hand for the rescue, he said.

Rescuers initially feared other skiers might have gotten caught up in the same slide.

But Sheriff Jim Winder said a thorough search of the debris field of hardened snow failed to turn up anybody else, and he was confident the woman was the only victim. The search was called off at nightfall after a search involving dogs, probes and avalanche beacons.

Emily Gross said doctors spent around 6 hours trying to save her sister.

"When she arrived she was pretty beat up," Emily Gross told FOX News. "She had a black eye and she was wearing a helmet at the time, but the helmet had been torn off. Her body, she had pretty serious internal bleeding and was pretty cold by the time they got her there."

Gross died just before 5 p.m. Sunday, University Hospital spokeswoman Chantelle Turner said.

Winder said the avalanche was an aberration inside a resort where ski patrollers routinely fire or drop explosives to loosen snow before slides can occur naturally.

The avalanche followed hours after Snowbird opened new terrain for the season off 11,068-foot Mount Baldy. In that area, skiers have to hike for about 20 minutes before descending.

Snowbird, about 15 miles east of Salt Lake City, had received a foot of fresh snow from a weekend storm.

The skier's companion reported the avalanche by cell phone and within seconds, the first ski patroller arrived, Winder said.

It was the first in-bounds avalanche death at Snowbird since March 1977.

Another avalanche several miles away buried a backcountry skier on Sunday, Winder said.

A medical helicopter was on hand to pick up that skier, who was dug out by his friends alive, he said.

The backcountry group was skiing in the Wasatch Mountains near Desolation Lake.

Heather Gross graduated with a linguistics degree from the University of Utah, had studied in China and was a season passholder at Snowbird, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Emily Gross said that despite the tragedy, her family would continue to ski.

"We were born and raised in Salt Lake and love the resorts," she told FOX News. "It’s always been a big part of our lives, and I know we’ll still be a skiing family."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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