Grand Teton National Park officials are withholding the names of the skiers who violated an emergency closure at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Thursday and ended up lost in Granite Canyon.
The initial investigation confirmed that a 24-year-old male and 28-year-old female from Jackson, a 24-year-old male from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a 31-year-old female from Breckenridge, Colorado, exited the ski area boundary Thursday at the top of the Teton chair and ducked a rope into a closed area.
Two of the skiers — it’s unclear which ones — skied back inbounds while the other two, a skier and a snowboarder, got lost in Granite Canyon.
“The lost skiers had cellphone access and were able to contact a friend who in turn contacted ski patrol and then park dispatch,” Teton park spokesperson Denise Germann said in a press release. “A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter conducted an aerial reconnaissance, using location information communicated by the lost individuals. Due to sunset and diminished light, it was challenging to confirm the location.”
The first call came in around 5:30 p.m.
Three hours later, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort helped transport three park rangers to the top of the Teton lift, allowing them ski into the canyon and start a ground search.
The lost skiers provided GPS coordinates, and rangers used ropes and belays to safely move down steeper parts of the canyon, Germann said.
“The rangers were able to verbally communicate with the lost individuals, and at approximately 11 p.m. they located the skier and snowboarder in the Spock Chutes area,” Germann said.
The rangers escorted the skiers back up the mountain and reached the ski area boundary at 2:30 a.m. Friday. The incident is under investigation by Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Germann could not say if the skiers were cited for violating the closure.
“All recreationists are reminded to respect current backcountry conditions and make informed decisions regarding any recreational endeavors,” she said. “All rules and regulations should be followed, including exiting the resort at designated access points and respecting any closures. Please do not create a situation that may put rescuers at unnecessary risk.”
In an unprecedented move, the resort had closed backcountry access this week and given skiers repeated warnings not to leave resort boundaries. Spokesperson Anna Cole said the resort hadn’t made a decision about possible repercussions for the skiers, such as having passes revoked.
“I can’t say anything about implications for those people until after the investigation is over,” she said.
Officials from the resort, Teton County Search and Rescue, Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest decided Tuesday to close the gates amid a storm cycle that had already dumped four feet of snow in the Tetons and raised the avalanche danger rating to “high” at all elevations.
Officials reopened the gates Friday.