Squaw Creek avalanche fatality

A 56-year-old Michigan man was caught and killed in an avalanche Wednesday high in the Squaw Creek drainage off of the Greys River near Alpine.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m. Thursday: The man who died in an avalanche on Wednesday was Greg Stanczak of Michigan, according to Lincoln County Coroner Dain Schwab. Stanczak was visiting the area with his son and brothers and died when he was buried by avalanche debris in a Wednesday afternoon slide.

ORIGINAL STORY: First responders are on the scene of an avalanche in the Squaw Creek area, about four miles up Greys River Road from the trailhead in Lincoln County.

An avalanche that caught and carried eight snowmobiles was reported around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

A 56-year-old man was buried for about 20 minutes before friends found him and started CPR.

He was pronounced dead on scene, according to Teton County Search and Rescue.

Lincoln County called the Teton County team just before 5 p.m. for assistance in retrieving the man’s body.

“We got our short haul team down there right away,” Teton County Search and Rescue Chief Advisor Cody Lockhart said.

The team made it back just before sundown.

Lincoln County Search and Rescue was still on the scene of the avalanche at 7:30 Wednesday night.

The avalanche forecast for the Grey's River area was "considerable" Wednesday, which generally means that naturally triggered avalanches are possible and human triggered slides likely on steep, avalanche-prone slopes.

In the ranges south of the Tetons, forecasters at the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center predicted "large to very large" dangerous slab avalanches ranging in size from two to six feet Tuesday night.

Slides on persistent slabs were possible on all elevations and aspects, save for those on lower, south and southwesterly faces. Wind slabs, formed in part by the recent snow fall, were also a concern at mid to upper elevations.

Asked Tuesday whether the mountains south of Jackson still harbored conditions that could result in a fatal slide, Avalanche Center Bob Comey said yes and that snowmobilers were at higher risk of triggering such an avalanche because of their weight.

“They are in the dicier areas with the terrain … that has a more dangerous snowpack structure,” he said.

Before the fatal slide, the most recent avalanche south of Jackson reported to the center's website was Sunday in Martin Creek in the southern Gros Ventre Range.

A snowmobiler triggered that 24-inch hard slab, which failed on a northeast-facing slope around 8,600 feet.

Other large slides were seen in recent days on Togwotee Pass, which has a similar snowpack structure to the Southern Trails forecast area, where basal facets and depth hoar pose a risk, particularly to larger triggers like snowmobiles.

One Togwotee-area slide in Spread Creek ripped down to the ground, and another in Slate Creek had a 40-inch crown.

Though it wasn’t avalanche related, Teton County Search and Rescue was out from 5:30 p.m. Monday to 3:30 a.m. Tuesday on a rescue in Jack Pine Creek.

Two Idaho men on snowmobiles got wedged in a tight canyon and couldn’t get out. The team went in on skis and got the men out on snowmobiles. They were uninjured, but their snow machines are still stuck in the canyon.

Tom Hallberg contributed reporting.

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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