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.

dhaulagiri
Helicopter Rescues Entire Expedition From World’s 7th-Highest Mountain
Helicopters scrambled to rescue 25 people from the Himalaya's seventh-highest mountain. Read more…

“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
By

Sam Anderson is a staff writer at GearJunkie, and several other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about climbing, cycling, running, wildlife, outdoor policy, the outdoor industry, vehicles, and more for 2 years. Prior to GearJunkie, he owned and operated his own business before freelancing at GearHungry. Based in Austin, Texas, Anderson loves to climb, boulder, road bike, trail run, and frequent local watering holes (of both varieties).