Seven skier-caused avalanches were reported to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center since Friday, plus one set off by a snowboarder and two by snowmobilers.
Saturday was a big day, avalanche forecaster Bob Comey said. Some places received up to 30 inches of snow, and it was snowing almost an inch an hour in some places. That, accompanied by high winds, led to dangerous conditions.
Two snowboarders were caught on the south side of Teton Pass, according to a report they filed, and one was completely buried. Both riders walked away uninjured.
“There were a lot of close calls,” Comey said.
A group of three skiers was caught in an avalanche while “ascending out of the north woods” on Breccia Peak near Togwotee Pass, they reported to the avalanche center. Two of the skiers were able to dig themselves out and they were able to dig out their partner, who was buried up to his neck. All three left unharmed.
The slide near Togwotee Pass happened on a north aspect, which is prone to an October crust that has stuck around. The snow that fell in October but didn’t melt is causing much of the instability that leads to larger slides.
“This persistent deep slab is a tricky and potentially deadly problem,” Comey said. “Go skiing in some terrain that doesn’t slide, because there’s plenty of it out there.”
An avalanche Sunday killed a skier on Henderson Mountain near Cooke City, Montana, on a snowpack similar to the Teton area’s, Comey said.
Of the seven skier-caused avalanches in the area, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s avalanche mitigation team reported three. No details accompanied the report, and resort officials did not answer calls by press time.
The resort set off 44 slides Saturday using artillery, explosive air blasts and a gas exploder. Another 15 were set off Sunday.
On Monday, backcountry guides reported seeing a naturally triggered 60-inch-deep slab avalanche on the Powder 8 slope in Cody Bowl.
Avalanche conditions are rated “considerable” above 9,000 feet and moderate at all elevations below that. There is more snow on the way, and conditions are still dangerous.
Comey knows that even an avalanche forecast of “high” won’t deter everyone, but he hopes that people will make smart, conservative decisions in the backcountry.
“The main thing is that conditions change, so continually check in,” Comey said. “Make an observation if you’re out there. Back off a little bit and play it conservative for a while.”
To stay up to date with ever-changing conditions, visit JHAvalanche.org.