Slide kills skier in park
By Tim Dudley, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
February 22, 2010
A skier died Sunday when an avalanche reportedly swept him over a 1,500-foot cliff on the South Teton in Grand Teton National Park.
Wray Landon, 30, of Driggs, Idaho, was skiing with two others, who were above him when the avalanche broke before 11:30 a.m. on the south face of the 12,514-foot peak, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
The other skiers, Brady Johnston, of Driggs, and Nathan Brown, whose hometown was unavailable Sunday, were not caught in the avalanche and were eventually able to ski out.
Skaggs said the three had summitted the peak via Garnet Canyon and the Northwest Couloir and had skied down about 300 to 400 vertical feet when the avalanche struck and carried Landon about 2,000 vertical feet.
Brown used a cell phone to call 911 about 11:30 a.m. and tell dispatchers Landon was caught in an avalanche and he thought he could see him at the bottom of a 1,500-foot cliff, Skaggs said. Park rangers were then notified. Rangers used the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter to fly to the area and could see the body below the cliff, Skaggs said.
Seven rangers and three Search and Rescue volunteers then began an effort to recover the body, she said.
Skaggs said the slide had a crown of about 2 feet and that the party appeared to be equipped for travel in avalanche terrain.
Landon’s Facebook page said he was the resource specialist for the Teton Regional Land Trust. The land trust’s Web site said Landon attended the University of Montana, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies in 2001, had formerly been a ski coach at Grand Targhee Resort and had lived in Teton Valley for more than three years.
In his blog, TetonAT.com, occasional ski partner Steve Romeo said Landon had recently moved to Jackson.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center rated the avalanche danger as “moderate” at high elevations for Sunday, though the center does not include elevations higher than 10,500 feet in its forecasts.
“At the mid and upper elevations, pockets of dense surface slabs up to 30 inches deep rest upon buried surface hoar and sun crusts,” the center’s report said Sunday morning. “The possibility persists for backcountry travelers to trigger these slabs in steep, avalanche-prone terrain.”
The death is the second avalanche fatality in the Tetons this winter.