Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: BTNFAC; Jim Springer
Place: South Badger Creek, Jedediah Smith Wilderness
Summary: One skier caught, buried, and killed
I travelled to the accident scene on Dec. 26th courtesy of the Teton County Sherif's Office and the Teton County Search and Rescue Team. The slide occurred on a South facing slope above South Badger Creek in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. The party was travelling East, up the ridge crest. They had planned to ski to and from Dead Horse Pass staying on the ridge because of the high avalanche danger. The party dropped onto the South slopes of the ridge and travelled approx. one quarter mile along the slope, one to two hundred feet below the crest. They traversed a shallow bowl of 30 to 35 degrees (estimated) one person at a time due to their concerns about the slope stability. The victim was the last (third) across when the slope gave way, fracturing 20 to 40 feet above her and approx. 100 yards wide. She was carried some distance on the hard slab before it broke up at which point she vanished from sight. The time was a little after 1p.m. MST and the air was recorded at 28F? at the same elevation (approx 9200ft) twenty miles away at the Jackson Hole Resort. The path funnelled into a shallow ravine then fanned out 1000 feet below. The two remaining members quickly began a transceiver search. One headed down to the greater deposition areas at the toe of the slide, the other working down checking various debris traps higher on the slope. The victim was located near the toe of the slide in a deep deposition area where the drainage curved creating a terrain/debris trap. At forty minutes after the slide, after digging six feet, the victim was felt via probe then an additional four feet of snow was removed before uncovering her and determining that she was deceased. Total depth of burial was ten feet and time to uncovering approx. 55 minutes.
Unfortunately while we were at the scene, the area was still threatened by other avalanches. A warm-up was causing sloughs to run nearby so we concentrated on getting ourselves and the victim out of the area as fast as possible. I was unable to visit the starting zone of the slide. Interviewing one of the party members, observations at the scene and other activity this season, it appeared that the bed surface was the crust still remaining from our dense (rain crust likely involved at these altitudes) mid October snowfall. That layer was overlain by several alternating layers of surface hoar and light density snow and has been responsible for numerous big slides and the two prior fatalities in the area. The vertical fall of the slide was approxiamately 1400 feet. (7800ft to 9200ft) 18-24 inch crown. The bed surface was rock in some places so the slide may have dug through the October layer once it gained a little momentum.
Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Center