In-bounds avalanche kills Wilson skier
Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson, Wyoming
December 27, 2008
An in-bounds avalanche at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort killed 31-year-old Wilson skier David Nodine Saturday afternoon when it buried him beneath about eight feet of snow, authorities reported.
A number of skiers witnessed the slide break loose and carry the victim and a companion down an expert trail named Paintbrush. The avalanche occurred at approximately 1:25 p.m. and carried the pair about 200 yards, leaving the victim’s companion unburied and uninjured.
Resort brand director Anna Olson said ski patrol had taken normal precautions to reduce avalanche hazard in the area before opening it to the public. Such patrols normally involve the use of explosives to trigger avalanches when slopes are empty of skiers.
“There isn’t an answer as to why that happened there at that time,” she said of the fatality Saturday. “The snowpack appears to be doing this in pockets. Patrol will continue to take precautions.”
Ski patrollers discovered the location of the victim within six minutes by honing in on signals from an avalanche transceiver he wore, resort officials said. It is standard procedure to search for victims first by transceiver, Olson said.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center said rescuers recovered Nodine within 10 minutes.
The area in question had been opened for the first time this season at 9:36 a.m. on Saturday, Olson reported. “It had been skied quite a bit,” before the two skiers ventured onto the slope, she said.
One of the pair lost a ski when entering the slope with a jump over a short cliff, Olson said. When he got his gear back together, it appeared the two skied the slope simultaneously, she said.
The slab avalanche broke a crown six to eight feet deep, Olson said after talking to ski patrollers. She said patrollers uncovered the victim quickly after they pinpointed his burial site and administered cardio pulmonary resuscitation, to no avail. Medical workers also attempted to revive Nodine using a defibrillation device, again without success. He was pronounced dead at a clinic at the resort base.
Witness at the scene reported as many as 35 workers probing the avalanche slope following the slide. Olson said searchers were able to determine relatively quickly that nobody else was involved.
Two dogs aided in the search.
“As soon as the incident occurred we shut the upper mountain,” Olson said. Investigations continued into the afternoon, she said.
At the resort base, about eight ski patrollers arrived together at approximately 4 p.m. carrying shovels and long avalanche probe poles fully assembled. They were bundled against an ongoing snowstorm, their eyes the only clue to the grim task they had just performed.
The death is the 6th avalanche fatality of the season in North America. It brought a statement of condolence from resort president Jerry Blann.
“We are extremely saddened by this accident and send our thoughts and prayers to the victim’s family and friends,” he said in a statement. “The Tetons have been experiencing severe mountain weather since Dec. 21st with over five feet of snow falling in a very short period of time.”
Hazard Saturday was “considerable” according to the Avalanche Center. During such times “dangerous unstable slabs exist on steep terrain on certain aspects,” the center says.
Daily forecasts are available at www.jhavalanche.org.