2 slides hit road, skier
A Wyoming Department of Transportation front loader clears debris from a small avalanche that covered the road Thursday in Hoback Canyon. Another slide in Grand Teton National Park on Friday carried skier Jimmy Chin down part of Mt. Albright. BRADLY J. BONER / JACKSON HOLE DAILYView our entire photo gallery >>
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole, Wyo.
April 2, 2011
Correction: Grand Teton National Park officials said Saturday they learned that day the avalanche was on Shadow Peak and that four persons were in the party. The information came from a follow-up interview with a party member.
Two significant wet spring avalanches scoured mountainsides Thursday and Friday, one carrying a skier a reported 1,000 feet down Albright Peak in Grand Teton National Park.
Adventure photographer Jimmy Chin survived that slide without injury, he said in a telephone interview from the trailhead Friday evening. The second slide, onto Highway 191 in the Hoback Canyon, blocked that road for about two hours Thursday.
The incidents occurred as snow conditions in the Tetons make a radical change. In the space of two days, the lingering winter that has produced a bounty of cold, powder snow morphed into warm, spring weather.
With more direct sun in April, wet slides like those seen Thursday and Friday can become routine. While the morning snowpack can be stable following a freezing night, sunshine can provoke avalanches as the day warms.
Chin said Friday he was OK and not banged up. He was not certain he went as far as reported to the park by witnesses in another party, he said.
He lost a ski but was able to get out of the mountains and to his party’s vehicle with no outside assistance. He was with snowboarders Jeremy Jones and Xavier de le Rue, both internationally known athletes.
His explanation of the avalanche was straightforward.
“I took a ride and got out,” he said.
Chin was skiing on an east aspect of the 10,552-foot peak when the slide broke.
A large wet-slab avalanche “cracked around him with a crown around 2 feet,” park spokeswoman Traci Weaver said. “He rode it about 1,000 feet.”
Park officials received a 911 call at 2:20 p.m., Weaver said. It came from witnesses who said all were safe.
Temperatures Thursday night in the valley did not go below freezing, forecasters at the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center said. On Friday morning they predicted some danger.
On Albright’s ski slopes, the danger was forecasted to be “moderate,” where human-triggered avalanches would be possible. The East Face of Albright is a known avalanche path that has swept away skiers before.
Chin, a Victor, Idaho, resident, is a Teton ski master and cutting-edge climber.
He is featured on the cover of the April issue of Outside Magazine, where he is dubbed one of the “New Kings of Adventure.” The story talks about Chin and his Camp 4 Collective media company, which reports and make commercials instantly from location on cutting-edge trips.
Thursday’s avalanche onto Highway 191 put an estimated 10 feet of snow across the road. It ran down the well-known Cow of the Woods path, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. The slide path is a north-facing slope that descends to about 6,500 feet.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation sometimes protects the highway by firing artillery rounds into the starting to provoke a slide while traffic is held back.
Weaver urged backcountry travelers to check the forecast before venturing out. It is available at jhavalanche.org or 733-2664.