black hawk military helicopter
(Photo/aabacak, Shutterstock)

Watch: Black Hawk Helicopters Crash Land at Snowbird Resort, No Injuries

On Tuesday morning, skiers at Utah’s Snowbird Resort witnessed a jarring incident when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed near a heavily used chairlift.

The UH-60 Black Hawks belonged to Utah’s National Guard. No one was injured in the crash, but the spectacle at the crowded ski area caused an uproar.

Skier Jacob Oster, 29, told Outside he was riding the Mineral Basin Express lift with two friends when he heard the thump of rotors behind him. Turning around, he saw the helicopters descend and start churning up a cloud of powder. That’s when he began shooting video.

Soon, the helicopters disappeared into the airborne snow. In the video, one aircraft careens upward, then pitches back into the cloud. A percussive thump follows, and a few pieces of helicopter scatter.

You can see the full event take place from another skier’s vantage point, farther in the distance.

Ski Patrol Responds; National Guard Comments

Oster’s group and others watched from the lift as Snowbird personnel ran toward the crash site. The ski patrol roped off the crash site and ensured skiers got safely to the top of the Mineral Basin Express and Baldy lifts. Soon, they shut down the Mineral Basin area.

National Guard officials exited the wrecked aircraft unharmed.

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the National Guard stated that the crews “experienced whiteout conditions” just before the crash, indicating lost visibility. After one of the UH-60’s contacted the ground, a detached rotor flew through the air and hit the tail rotor of the other helicopter, which brought it down as well.

Jared Jones, aviation public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard, said that the exercise was part of routine training for helicopter crews.

“Both summertime and wintertime mountainous training, including dust and snow conditions, including, we call it full whiteout conditions,” Jones said. “In combat, there are places you have to land sometimes that are that difficult, and so we do train to that standard.”

Pilot Weighs In: ‘Miracle’ No One Was Hurt

Joel Johnson, who logged 9 years of operational flying experience in H-53 helicopters for the U.S. Navy, told GearJunkie that helicopter rescues also routinely demand the skills the pilots were training.

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“It’s a type of landing you have to be proficient at,” Johnson said about landing on loose substrates. “Especially if you’re going to be rescuing people in snow.”

He added that snow landings are “on the high-risk spectrum of training activities.” Because the pilot can’t see the landing surface through the snow, it’s possible to bump the tail rotor on the ground before the skids or wheels touch down.

He also said that injury is usually the best-case scenario in an incident like Snowbird.

“You’re talking about broken pieces of metal flying around at about the speed of sound,” he said. “The fact that these two helicopters crashed so close to each other and no one even got hurt — if you’re religious, you’re calling it a miracle.”

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.