4 Skiers Who Died in Utah Avalanche Remembered as 'Adventurous' People Who Found 'Joy' Outdoors
The identities of the four skiers who died in a Utah avalanche over the weekend have been released by authorities.
In a press release from the Unified Police Department in South Salt Lake, officials identified the victims as Stephanie Hopkins, 26, Thomas Steinbrecher, 23, Sarah Moughamian, 29, and Louis Holian, 26.
"Our hearts go out to the loved ones of the skiers lost in Saturday's avalanche," Sheriff Rosie Rivera said in a statement.
According to the press release, police were notified of an avalanche in the Wilson Glade area of Milcreek Canyon around 11:40 a.m. on Saturday.
Two groups — one with five skiers, and another with three skiers — were in the area when the avalanche was triggered, officials said. All eight were swept away during the incident.
Police said initial reports indicated that five skiers were buried but once they arrived, they learned that only four were missing.
The other four — who were all males, ages 23-28 — had managed to "dig themselves and the others out," before being "hoisted off the mountain by Life Flight Helicopters and crews," police said.
"None of them had life-threatening injuries and were not hospitalized," police added. "All eight skiers were well prepared and had the necessary equipment for the conditions."
Officials continued their search for the four skiers but had to pause "due to unstable conditions," according to the release. They resumed their efforts on Sunday morning before finding the bodies of Moughamian, Holian, Hopkins and Steinbrecher.
In the wake of the tragedy, loved ones have been expressing their heartbreak and paying tribute to the victims.
Moughamian, of Sandy, Utah, was described by her family as an adventurous person who "lived her life to the fullest."
"She has spent all of her available free time in these last months climbing, skiing and mountaineering," her mom Jill told NBC affiliate KSL-TV. "She… was doing what she loved to do."
Jill added that her daughter found "the two loves of her life" in Utah — her soulmate, who reportedly helped dig her out of the snow but was unable to save her life, and her love for the outdoors.
In a tribute Facebook post, Moughamian's brother, Paul, wrote: "I love you my little sister and now I'll miss you forever, hopefully we can live life as big as you lived yours. Rest In Peace."
Hopkins, of Salt Lake City, worked as a nurse in the neurointensive care unit at the University of Utah Hospital — the same place where her sister was recovering from her second brain surgery in a week, according to a post from a friend in a memorial Facebook group, "Remembering Stephanie Ann."
"She was excited to love and to live at all times," the friend wrote in the group. "She wore her heart on her sleeve, and because her heart was made of gold, her hugs were worth more than most."
A former roommate said Hopkins "was and will forever be a FORCE."
"So passionate for all that she loved and all who she loved. Adventurous, free-spirited, so alive, in-tune, SO extremely thoughtful, lover of the outdoors, lover of the little things, lover of great food and great company, lover of music that fit the moment, grounded, generous, lovely, kind, relentlessly herself, the embodiment of selfless love," the post read.
Like the women, Holian and Steinbrecher, both of Salt Lake City, were also passionate about the outdoors, their social media profiles show.
Steinbrecher's Instagram features dozens of photos of him hiking and skiing. His bio also reads, "Seeking joy and pain in the high mountains."
"I like silly missions like taking my race skis down wolverine cirque or doing time trials up to the summit of superior," he wrote in a Facebook post in December. "Hoping to learn a bit more about being efficient for races, improving my fitness, but above all enjoy skiing."
Similarly, Holian's Instagram also had many images from his skiing, biking and climbing adventures.
His last post came in March 2020, where he shared a series of skiing photos and captioned it: "Brave faces, everyone. Skiing is serious. Here's my insta post for the year."
Holian's friend, Anthony Nocella, told KSL-TV that Holian preferred "being in the woods, not in the city" and confirmed that all of the skiers caught in the avalanche "were highly, highly skilled."
"He did whatever he wanted to do," Nocella said. "He lived life to the fullest. He's amazing. Everyone is going to miss him. Everyone is going to miss those four people."
"The wild can be wild. Just be careful [out there]," he added. "Always tell everybody you love them. You never know."
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