Joshua Holder, a 42-year-old Casper man, was killed Sunday afternoon on Togwotee Pass after his sledding partner found him pinned under his snowmobile in the snow.
It’s not clear how the sled ended up on top of him, said Matt Hansen, the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation’s communications director. Holder and his partner separated shortly before the accident. It’s also not clear how, exactly, Holder died.
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said his office hadn’t determined a cause of death by press time Monday.
The accident was also not avalanche-related. Hansen said first responders didn’t see a debris path or any other signs of instability in the area where Holder was found. They did, however, find deep, sugary, unconsolidated snow beneath his snowmobile.
Teton County Search and Rescue “has responded to accidents like this before where snowmobilers get upside down underneath their snowmobile,” Hansen said. “Sometimes they make it out, sometimes they don’t.”
A similar accident occurred in 2021 on Togwotee Pass, when a snowmobile flipped, killing its rider. A year later, another overturned snowmobile broke its rider’s neck. That man has since recovered, Hansen said.
Before the most recent accident, Holder and his partner lost sight of one another while riding near the X Trail, a spur of the larger Continental Divide Trail on Togwotee Pass. When Holder’s partner found him pinned under his snowmobile, he sent out an SOS alert on a satellite device which mobilized Search and Rescue into the field with snowmobiles and a helicopter.
They were joined by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.
On scene, responders determined Holder was dead and that his death had not been caused by a slide.
Hansen said it’s critical to keep “an eye on each other,” and make sure “you know where your partner is.” The snowmobilers were prepared, experienced and had the necessary avalanche gear.
“It’s just really unfortunate,” Hansen said.
The call was the second Search and Rescue responded to over the weekend. It also comes just short of a week after volunteers rescued teenage pro skier Kai Jones near Mosquito Creek. Jones broke his leg.
The first call from this weekend came after a Twin Falls, Idaho, couple floating the Snake River in a rented raft got stuck and called for help.
They had launched at the Wilson Bridge and intended to float to the South Park boat ramp about 13 miles downriver. A few miles into their float, they realized they weren’t going to be able to make it downstream and parked their raft along the riverbank. Deep snow made it hard for them to walk the banks and they called Search and Rescue for help.
“They got into [a] maze they couldn’t navigate,” said Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr, who doubles as the head of Teton County Search and Rescue.
Search and Rescue drove out on snowmobiles and picked them up on the levee. They pulled the raft out of the water, and towed it behind a snowmobile to a private road where the couple could pick it up later. The couple got a lift back to Wilson Bridge.
Carr said it may be worth reevaluating plans if you have to drag your raft over snow to get it to water.
Jones, meanwhile, announced his injury on Instagram. “After dropping a natural cliff feature and having a hard landing, my tibia tubercles broke and pulled off at the growth plate,” he wrote in his post. “I was 7 miles into the backcountry and in immense pain.”
Jones called Search and Rescue instead of attempting to self-rescue. Volunteers used a short haul to get him to the nearest parking lot, where he was transferred to an ambulance and driven to the hospital.
Jones and a partner had used snowmobiles to access the area south of Wilson in the Bridger-Teton National Forest that morning and were about seven miles from the trailhead. Jones said the rescue happened in just over an hour and that he’s “on the road to recovery.”
Billy Arnold has been covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the people who manage it since January 2022. He previously spent two years covering Teton County government, and a year editing Scene. Tips welcomed.
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