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"It's kind of scary right now." Sun Valley residents weather storms and avalanches

Posted at 10:10 AM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 13:28:31-04

KETCHUM, Idaho — "I’ve lived here since 1978 and I’ve never seen this much avalanche activity," said Sun Valley resident Sara Berquist.

The power of Mother Nature is on display on the drive from Hailey to Ketchum, there are noticeable slides where avalanches came down on almost every steep slope in all directions.

"We just had this huge avalanche cycle and according to the folks that have been around here for 50 years they haven't seen anything like it," said Scott Savage, the director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center.

Two storms dumped too much snow too quickly and slides started happening all around Sun Valley earlier this week.

The avalanches, so far, have damaged three homes, hit two vehicles, blocked the Big Wood River in several places and blocked multiple roads, but residents have been able to rely on the Sawtooth Avalanche Center.

"We are all just blown away with what is happening up here, but it is really wonderful having these guys, their daily reports are so thorough and we listen to it every day," said Berquist.

We attended one of the seminars the Sawtooth Avalanche Center puts on about every other month called Digging Deeper. This event came at the perfect time, as Scott Savage was able to answer questions and people learned more about this historic event.

We learned that the deadly avalanche that killed a snowmobiler near Stanley happened when the conditions were considerable on a slope of around 30 degrees, which is not very steep when it comes to avalanches.

Related: Snowmobiler killed in avalanche outside of Stanley

The site of the deadly snowmobile accident

Earlier this week the conditions were extreme in Sun Valley, and while most of the region has moved back to considerable with a high danger warning for upper elevations, Scott advises people to stay out of the backcountry this weekend.

"While the danger won’t be anywhere near what it was when it was snowing, it will still be really scary," said Savage. "What will be different is you won’t be able to trigger avalanches on every slope, but when you do find that slope the avalanche is going to be just as big and do just as much damage."

The rooftops still have a couple of feet of snow on them and that can also pose a hazard if the snow slides off.

One Sun Valley resident had that happen and it buried his dog. Thankfully, Conor Davis was able to use a probe to find his pooch and dig the dog safely out of the snow.

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center is a public-private partnership between the government and a non-profit called the Friends of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center.

This team forecasts weather, conditions, and physically goes out to check the snowpack throughout the winter and the residents are happy to have them.

"We had the fatality the other day and we don't want to have any more of those," said Berquist.