Dangerous avalanche conditions exist
Two avalanche-related deaths this winter on Bridger-Teton National Forest
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
February 10, 2010
An avalanche fatality involving a snowmobiler occurred on the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Saturday, February 6. The incident took place on the Greys River Ranger District in the Squaw Creek area, approximately seven miles west of the town of Alpine, WY. The victim, a 50-year-old male from Dillon MT, was riding in an area with steep terrain and aspects that remain very suspect to snowmobile -riggered avalanches. He was carrying a shovel and a signal beacon and was not traveling alone.
A second avalanche occurred nearby the same day that resulted in a partial burial. That individual survived, and he was wearing an air bag which deployed and kept him from being pulled deep under the slide. According to Liz Davy, Acting District Ranger, "People donít seem to be taking the risk very seriously. We have already experienced multiple live burials on the Forest this year due to avalanches."
"The current snow conditions are giving a really false sense of security. It is more like late spring conditions where you can go almost anywhere on top of the snow, but when people are high marking or traversing the slopes, it can really weaken the snowpack. Itís really dicey out there," says Ray Spencer, Winter Sport Administrator for the Jackson Ranger District. "People need to make a clear decision on where to go and what precautions they need to take." Experts say the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges have a very unstable snowpack with a weak base that is susceptible to human triggers.
According to Bob Comey, Director of the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center, the key to surviving an avalanche is not only having the proper equipment; shovel, transceiver and probe, but also the knowledge and experience at using them. Avoidance of suspect slopes is essential. Your chances are not very good if you get caught in a large avalanche. Comey stressed that people need to make conservative decisions with respect to avalanche terrain. "Itís a good time to avoid steep slopes. High marking is risky business until things change."
Forest wide, there have been two fatalities this winter. The first occurred January 6, at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. Mark Wolling, a ski patroller, perished as a result of a slide that was triggered during avalanche reduction efforts. Snowmobilers and backcountry skiers make up the majority of avalanche fatalities in Wyoming and there have been numerous reported close calls, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center.
Backcountry travelers are encouraged to check the Avalanche Centers website for daily avalanche danger forecasts. For information on avalanche conditions call 307-733-2664 or visit http://www.jhavalanche.org or http://nsidc.org/snow/avalanche/