ELKO, Nev. (AP) _ A SkyWest commuter plane with 16 people on board crashed in the mountains while trying to land during a snowstorm this morning, and three people were injured but most walked away, officials said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the plane, Flight 5855, was on a hop from Salt Lake City to Elko when it went down at about 9:30 a.m. west of the airport in this northeastern Nevada town of 8,800.

Most of the passengers escaped generally unharmed although three were reported with more serious injuries, authorities said. All the people aboard were rescued from the site within a few hours of the accident.

''Right now, I'm feeling that the outcome is wonderful,'' said SkyWest President Jerry Atkin. ''The thing you hope for in these situations is for all survivors. It's certainly unpleasant to have such a thing happen, but I'm very pleased with the outcome.''

Today is the third anniversary of another SkyWest crash. A SkyWest commuter plane on final approach to the Salt Lake City airport collided with a smaller aircraft on Jan. 15, 1987, killing all 10 people in both planes and showering debris on a residential area.

There was no immediate clue as to the cause of today's crash, Atkin said, adding that the airplane involved was less than a year old.

The Metro III twin-engine turboprop commuter plane with 14 passengers and two crew members crashed when the pilot was attempting an instrument landing during a snowstorm.

One of the rescuers, Pete Schory out of Salt Lake City, said passengers were wandering around when he landed at the crash site in a helicopter.

No one aboard had been thrown from the plane and the fuselage and tail of the aircraft were intact on the northeast face of the mountain, Schory said.

A nursing supervisor at the Elko Medical Center said injuries to the three were not life-threatening. The worst injury was to the captain, who was admitted with a possible chest injury and maybe a broken leg. A fourth person may be admitted for observation because of shock, the supervisor said.

Estimates of the distance of the crash site to the airport varied from 5 to 10 miles, and the terrain was variously described as foothills or low mountains.

Atkin said most of the people were taken from the remote site by helicopter, flown to the airport and then driven to the hospital to be treated or checked out. He spoke from St. George, Utah, where the airline is based.

SkyWest serves 44 cities in eight Western states: Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California, Atkin said. It has 500 flights a day and serves more than a million passengers a year.

The Metro III commuter plane is made by Fairchild Aircraft Corp. in San Antonio, Texas, and seats up to 19 passengers. The model has been in service since June 1980.