Headwall slides at Jackson Hole resort

By Jim Stanford on December 29, 2008

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Updated 8:31 p.m. — Backcountry gates to close (see bottom of post); links to more photos in comments
Photo of the debris pile outside Couloir, submitted by JH Underground reader.

Photo of the debris pile outside Couloir, submitted by JH Underground reader.

Web cam photo of ski patrollers probing debris shortly after the Headwall slid this morning. Click to enlarge.

Web cam photo of ski patrollers probing debris shortly after the Headwall slid this morning at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Click to enlarge.

The Headwall slope at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort avalanched this morning and crashed into the Couloir restaurant atop the Bridger Gondola, but preliminary reports indicate no one was killed or injured severely.

Ski patrol triggered the slide using explosives, according to a mountain employee who was on scene.

Two patrollers were buried but dug out OK, according to a member of Teton County Search and Rescue who assisted in the probing effort. Ski patroller Mike Werner reportedly was hit by a table but was not badly injured.

The back wall of the Couloir restaurant was smashed, and windows were blown out. The slide reportedly trapped a ski patroller inside the patrol hut, but he or she was extricated without injury.

The resort released this statement:

“At approximately 9:30 a.m. this morning, after JHMR Ski Patrol had completed one avalanche hazard reduction route and were getting ready to conduct another, the Headwall slid naturally from the southeast aspect above the Bridger Restaurant.

“This incident took place before this area of the mountain had been opened to the public. A search for potential victims took place and everyone has been accounted for. This incident is under full investigation and a more detailed report will be released at 4 p.m.

“At this time, JHMR will remain closed until further notice.”

Couloir restaurant sits at the bottom of the Headwall slide path. In 1986, a large, destructive avalanche ran through there all the way down the mountain.

Couloir restaurant sits at the bottom of the Headwall slide path. In 1986, a large, destructive avalanche ran through there all the way down the mountain.

Just when we thought the avalanche danger could get no worse, it did, in the form of some unwelcome weather: rain.

The newest snow is heavy slush, sitting atop wind-packed powder, sitting atop light powder, sitting atop faceted snow, sitting atop a solid, glazed rain crust, sitting atop sugar.

I had just returned from a morning run on Snow King when I heard the Headwall news. Two friends and I had been discussing how this year’s snowpack is unlike anything we’ve ever seen here, and certainly a stark contrast to last winter’s bomb-proof base. We’ve grown accustomed to skiing the backcountry as if it were safe. Not this year.

Here’s a photo of the November rain crust atop the Headwall, recently posted on the TGR forum:

Yikes. That slick sliding surface is not going to go away anytime soon.

Yikes. That slick sliding surface is not going to go away anytime soon.

The Couloir restaurant opened last year. There was some criticism in the community when the Forest Service approved the structure within the avalanche path; Jackson Hole News editor Angus Thuermer, mindful of the 1986 Headwall avalanche, was among the biggest skeptics.

My recollection is that the resort located the building as far to the north as possible, enough that it apparently felt safe investing millions of dollars into the facility. That’s why the area atop the gondola feels squeezed, as the center of the Headwall slide path runs just to the south.

The Snaz has an excerpt from David Gonzales’ book Jackson Hole: On a Grand Scale recalling the cataclysmic Headwall avalanche of ’86, which took out the old restaurant shack and bathrooms near the bottom of Thunder and came to a stop only a hundred feet or so from the residential part of Teton Village.

The New Years gala is supposed to feature dinner and dancing for $300 per person.

The New Years gala is supposed to feature dinner and dancing for $300 per person.

The resort had been planning a New Year’s Eve masquerade ball at Couloir. No word on whether that will be an open-air affair.

I’m guessing the resort — already besieged by the death of a skier in-bounds this week, prolonged closures of terrain during the peak holiday season, the expense of building a $31 million new tram, and the economy in shambles — is going to face a mountain of criticism and second-guessing following this Headwall avalanche. Not exactly the banner start to the season it had hoped for. My heart goes out to everyone working there during this stressful time.

Teton AT had photos of the damage inside the restaurant, but pulled them under pressure from the resort and Sheriff Bob Zimmer. Blogger Steve Romeo is a member of the Teton County Search and Rescue team and was on the scene to assist with the search.

Whether our sheriff should be censoring a public servant with photos of an important historical event is a topic for another blog post, one I hope to take up promptly. In short, I consulted with a legal scholar who said while the matter may be a gray area, the photographer likely is protected under the First Amendment. Zimmer ought to be standing up for his SAR volunteer’s rights, and the public’s, rather than bowing to pressure from the resort.

Anyhow, photos are surfacing on other sites, and a reader submitted some with links in the comments below.

Here is the resort’s 4 p.m. statement, just released (my emphasis on OB gates):

“At approximately 9:26 a.m. this morning routine avalanche hazard reduction work by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) Ski Patrol triggered an avalanche of significant size down the southeast aspect of an area at JHMR referred to as the Headwall.  The Headwall which had not been open to the public this season to date and was not expected to open in the near future, consists of steep, expert terrain.

“The slide descended from the top of the Headwall, and a second slide was triggered, which continued down to the base of the run reaching the west and south sides of the building that houses three resort restaurants, causing considerable non-structural damage to the building.

“This incident took place prior to the Bridger Gondola being open to the public, but a number of JHMR operational employees were in the vicinity.  A search for potential victims was conducted and by 10:06am, all JHMR employees were accounted for.

“Following the incident a decision was made to close the resort temporarily while further avalanche hazard reduction work took place. Lower mountain lifts were quickly re-opened. At this time the upper mountain remains closed while Ski Patrol continues its avalanche hazard reduction routines in an attempt to get the resort re-opened as quickly and safely as possible.

“Due to the significant snowfall received in the Teton region (62 inches in past seven days), we have received a request from our partners at Bridger Teton National Forest to close the OB gates into the surrounding backcountry.  JHMR will honor this request and close all our gates into the backcountry until further notice.

“’Our patrollers have done a phenomenal job showing the utmost professionalism and teamwork. I am extremely proud of their efforts and appreciate the risks they take on a daily basis. I also want to acknowledge our entire staff under these challenging circumstances,’” stated Jerry Blann, President, JHMR.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has established standards and protocols for minimizing the risk of avalanche that are based on the current weather and snowpack conditions. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort receives over 400 inches of snow annually and is dedicated to making the skiing and riding as safe as possible for our guests. Avalanche conditions change hour-by-hour and day-by-day. JHMR Ski Patrol continuously monitors elements of the weather and snowpack conditions 24 hours a day throughout the winter and uses this information to continually assess potential hazards.

“We acknowledge and are grateful for the quick response of the community including the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, Teton County Search and Rescue and USFS.”

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Posted under Ski Resorts, Sports, Weather

68 Comments so far

  1. Suz December 29, 2008 12:35 pm

    Jim, rumor also has it that the pass will be closed tonight for helicopter bombing. Icky snow year this year… bummer.

  2. Rich December 29, 2008 12:59 pm

    I noticed the live web cam at the Gondola was pulled from the resort’s web page – yet no report of this or Sautrday’s incident.

  3. KIA December 29, 2008 1:07 pm

    “no report of this or Sautrday’s incident”

    JHMR issued a press release about the TB/PB incident, so I am wondering what you are talking about?

  4. Rich December 29, 2008 1:39 pm

    Clarification – no report on their “web site” that I could find. I am aware they released timely press reports on both incidents.

  5. H December 29, 2008 1:40 pm

    It is all under “latest news” on JH website

  6. TG December 29, 2008 1:49 pm

    Jim “We’ve grown accustomed to skiing the backcountry as if it were safe. Not this year.”

    funny, when the shit is hitting the fan at the ski area.

    Avy-aware BC skiers would not be in an area like Toilet Bowl with this snow pack, or many December/January snowpacks. Avy-aware BC skiers would not be on or under a face like the headwall in a storm. Yet, there is a restaurant and a lift station there. A patroller was hanging out in a flimsy structure right under it, and almost killed.

    Safe BC lines exist. Educated route selection can keep you alive. The illusory safety-net provided by patrol, bombs, chairlifts is the real issue that is being tested here.

    And, the assumption that the snow pack will be dangerous for the entire year is not necessarily valid. It may be, but it is far from a foregone conclusion.

  7. Tim December 29, 2008 1:51 pm

    Cheyenne and Laramie bowls also slid this morning. Laramie bowl is showing dirt now.

  8. M December 29, 2008 1:58 pm

    Building a restaurant in a known slide path was questioned by more than one person during the planning phase. When questioned, resort officials dismissed this possibility, citing the fact that the Headwall is controlled daily. Therefore, the reasoning went, there’s virtually no chance that it could be struck by an avalanche.
    Nature is a lot less predictable than many people would like to believe. I’m glad no one was killed.

  9. Abs December 29, 2008 2:35 pm

    Wondering…any correlation between the earthquakes in Yellowstone this past weekend and the slides?

  10. Karen December 29, 2008 3:17 pm

    Could anyone comment on Targhee safety as well as Snow King’s? JHMR has its hands full…my college age crew are looking for safer alternatives for this next week.

  11. js December 29, 2008 3:30 pm

    I think Snow King is pretty safe. The snow isn’t that deep, and most of the mountain did not have any unstable layers on it before the new snow fell.

    Targhee … haven’t heard what it’s like over there. But much of that mountain faces west, and may not have had as much weak base snow.

    Regarding the earthquakes comment, I saw a similar thread on TetonAT this weekend, but from I’ve heard, these slides are more a function of the weak snowpack. Interesting question, though.

  12. Jeff December 29, 2008 3:44 pm

    Targhee earlier today in their snow report had Dreamcatcher closed “because of snow conditions” and blackfoot in a wind hold. All closed now. There was a natural slide in “The Bad” almost two weeks ago that went to the ground, not aware of anything since.

  13. Bill E. Goat December 29, 2008 5:08 pm

    “My recollection is that the resort located the building as far to the north as possible, enough that it apparently felt safe investing millions of dollars into the facility. That’s why the area atop the gondola feels squeezed, as the center of the Headwall slide path runs just to the south.”

    The Gondola runs close to east to west. The runs below the restaurant face south or maybe south east.
    Shouldn’t the article read “…as far to the east as possible… runs just to the west…”?

  14. KB December 29, 2008 5:23 pm

    You can’t close the beaches on the 4th of July.
    (Cue shark music)

  15. JJ December 29, 2008 5:34 pm

    casper bowl slid as well. to the top of EDI.

  16. David December 29, 2008 5:35 pm

    Jim, those are my words, not Rod’s. I got that info for the book from Kirby W. and Renny J. I’ve just heard Rod mention that gondola and its summit building a few times.

  17. Tim December 29, 2008 5:42 pm

    Many small slides on the pass driving over today. The bombing on the pass will occur around 8am tomorrow. From the WYDOT website: “The Wyoming Department of Transportation has scheduled a closure of Teton Pass for 8:00am Tuesday December 30th, 2008. Weather depending, helicopter bombing or artillery will be used to reduce the avalanche hazard in several slide paths impacting Highway 22. Parking areas and backcountry access will be closed until avalanche reduction efforts are completed. This closure will take several hours and snow slides reaching the Highway may extend the closure. Highway travelers and backcountry users are advised to plan accordingly.” http://www.wyoroad.info/pls/Browse/WRR.RoadClosures

  18. js December 29, 2008 5:45 pm

    @David: noted, and edited accordingly.

    Tim, thanks for the update on Teton Pass.

  19. Greg December 29, 2008 5:46 pm

    Kudos for the excellent updating of this event today. Scary stuff. Glad I’m not holding tix to this Thursday evening’s Gala.

  20. YVES DESGOUTTES December 29, 2008 6:02 pm

    WTF is going on!!??
    Objectively after saturday’s death ,one would think caution would have the order of the day. Instead we got an unsafe mountain.
    JHMR has proven many times their inadequacy in financial acumen. But now they are offering us incompetence in mountaineering matters for this year-end holidays. I know that in this valley it is indecent to call a spade a spade but it has its limit. I am absolutely flabergasted by the stupidity of these buffoons.
    It is obvious that the JHMR has not or does not want to listen to the experts in avalanche science.They should fly in “by express” the best world experts which probably are Swiss or the best experts in the USA and let him, her or them do a re-evaluation of what went wrong in 3 occasions and what should be done in the future. JHMR should have the intellectual honesty to take these right steps. It is bloody obvious that heads should fall.
    Personally I have no trust ,right now ,to go and ski inbounds at the “Village”.
    Running a ski resort is a business which implies a high degree of care for your clientele and I am sad to say that JHMR has failed.

  21. cw December 29, 2008 6:06 pm

    JHMR has released an incident statement.

    http://jacksonhole.com/info/jhpressreleases/jhpressreleases.122908.release.asp

    It looks like they are closing OB, which is probably a good idea…

  22. Suz December 29, 2008 6:45 pm

    I want to stress other folks thoughts that we need to “hug” our ski patrol and not blame them for this incident. I agree that maybe JHMR made some questionable choices, but I feel that we should support David Nodine’s family and the ski patrol for their hard work. Pointing fingers at others takes away from the needed support of those who have been affected by these incidents. Thank you.

  23. KIA December 29, 2008 7:17 pm

    Yves you are so wrong that I feel embarrassed for you. The best avalanche experts in the country, and among the best in the world, work for JHMR. As much time as you have spent in the mountains it is unbelievable to me that you believe avalanches are controllable or predictable. This slide occurred as a part of the normal avalanche hazard reduction program – what more could possibly have been done?
    The location of the restaurant was not a ski patrol decision! It was doomed from day one as hundreds of us knew.
    But for you to point blame at the ski patrol, and call them incompetent in mountaineering measures changes the favorable opinion of you that some of us once held. Sadly, your post proves that you are clueless to the utmost with a huge heap of arrogance tossed in. Why not take an avalanche course from the American Avalanche Institute before you spew venom about a subject of which you have no understanding?

  24. KIA December 29, 2008 7:20 pm

    Or even better since you say
    “I have no trust ,right now ,to go and ski inbounds at the “Village”.

    Why don’t you go over to your beloved Snow King [where you also have a pass] and stay out of the “village” forever?

  25. mmassie December 29, 2008 7:30 pm

    David was a good friend of mine and the safest OB/IB skier I have skied with. The fact is we all need to learn from this. Just because we are skiing in bounds there are no guaranties. You must take all precautions. Please pray for the Nodine’s and this tremendous loss. I will miss David….

  26. Karen December 29, 2008 7:32 pm

    Agree with you Suz. Mother Nature is immune to what we think & do – whether we are acting supportive or critical of other human beings.

    It is a really difficult time for the resort – whether owners, leadership, patrollers, or the many others who keep this special mountain – and valley – going.

    Indy blogging did a fine – no, exceptional! – job today. Folks at the mountain had operational demands at the forefront – rightly so. It is easy to criticize, and much harder when you are responsible to so many. And I say this with no vested interest either way.

    Even maligned ‘easterners’ or ‘holiday visitors’ should be respected. They are like almost any one of us when we first thought of coming here and were inspired once we got here. (Especially this week) they go back home with more respect and awareness of the natural world – a good thing. And thankfully their economic contributions to local businesses keep more of us paying our rent/mortgage/grocery bills & permitting us the privilege of living here, something most visitors can only dream about.

    Enough said?

  27. Iri December 29, 2008 7:35 pm

    It might look like the Resort didn’t do enough to prevent all this. And it looks like it’s pretty easy to blame them for “bad” planning… But this “planning” had to be approved by others, don’t you think?
    I believe the ski patrols are doing everything they can to keep us save when we are having fun snowboarding or skiing. They put their own lives at risk, which (unfortunately)has been proven today….
    Some people need to realize that you could have an avalanche on almost every hill or mountain. So, why are they surprised and upset when this happens on a very steep mountain…? I am actually surprised there hasn’t been more avalanches..
    So, thanks, ski patrols, for all you do for us!
    Does anyone know what is going on with TetonAT? I tried their web site couple times, but can’t find the pictures anymore….

  28. Kevin December 29, 2008 7:55 pm

    Excuse me, Yves?! First of all…I can’t tell if you are a man or a woman, with a name like that…second of all, you obviously are clueless to the forces of mother nature. Yes…stay at Snow King. What makes you think the “experts” from somewhere else are going to tell us (JHSP) experts how/what to do anything different than what we are already doing?

  29. KIA December 29, 2008 7:56 pm

    “David was a good friend of mine and the safest OB/IB skier I have skied with. ”

    Then start skiing with a different crowd because ignoring closed signs cannot in any way be construed as safe. We are quite serious about the [now few and small] in bounds closed zones. Perhaps at the way rad ski area where you learned to ski this was not the case, but it is here.

  30. mrc December 29, 2008 8:09 pm

    KIA, last comment was in genuinely poor taste. Now is not the time to lecture the mourning.

  31. Greg December 29, 2008 8:11 pm

    I, too, am interested as to where the pictures went from TetonAT. If there have been threats, I want to make sure that the rest of us have an opportunity to share these pictures with as many news organizations as possible.

  32. HC December 29, 2008 8:19 pm

    Regarding TetonAT, sounds like they were taking some heat, and have since removed pics. The right to free press only goes so far in this federation :)

  33. Greg December 29, 2008 8:31 pm

    Okay it’s official. TetonAT has a disclaimer that they were removed. Allow me to provide them at no cost.

  34. Greg December 29, 2008 8:32 pm
  35. Greg December 29, 2008 8:34 pm
  36. Greg December 29, 2008 8:35 pm

  37. KB December 29, 2008 8:35 pm

    My friends
    This is still the second home of the second family for another 22 days. This is a matter of Homeland Security. You do not need to know.
    Love, George

  38. Greg December 29, 2008 8:35 pm
  39. Greg December 29, 2008 8:37 pm
  40. Karen December 29, 2008 8:40 pm

    This posted on TetonAT: To protect the privacy rights of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,
    the photographs previously associated with this post
    have been removed.

    It’s too bad JHMR feels the need to retain privacy around what are arguably the results of a violent act of nature. We get this. It’s OK. We support and appreciate everyone’s efforts and resilience. Don’t alienate us by appearing to hide what everyone can understand as an accident, and a risk of mountain life. Albeit a life where humans can at times be on the edge of what they should be doing….

  41. Greg December 29, 2008 8:44 pm

    Everyone please get copies of these photos posted above, and remember this the next time you choose to take your hard-earned money to the mountain. This is ridiculous !!!

  42. Jeff December 29, 2008 9:00 pm

    funny that they’re so quick to pull down the webcam and get zimmer to get the photos of the slide pulled, but they have yet to pull the advertisement for the couloir new years party… we’ll still take your $300!

  43. Greg December 29, 2008 9:01 pm

    Here’s another one…
    http://www.skiingthebackcountry.com/jackson_hole_Avalanche.php
    Get busy JHMR… the word’s out

  44. atlas December 29, 2008 9:24 pm

    The post on tetonAT about the painbrush/alta avalanches is interesting. There was a quake at 126 pm. Jackson hole daily states the paintbrush slide occured at “approximately” 1:25pm, the time of two simultaneous avalanches at JHMR. Magnitue 3.2 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT.
    http://www.seis.utah.edu/req2webdir/recenteqs/Quakes/quakes0.html
    My guess is that this would explain the simultaneous nature of the slides.

    Also, another point on the headwall slide. The press release states the the mountain had not been opened yet. My wife was at the base of the gondola. She called me at 934am, stating that people had gone up the gondola, but were being sent back down and were coming off the gondola at the base with their skis. So its not like this slide occured during routine blasing. It occured after they had given the ok to send skiiers up, and as a natural slide that happened after the blasing, could have easily happened a few minutes later. The mountain’s public relations are not being fully open and honest in their statements.

  45. MountainSurf December 29, 2008 9:36 pm

    Not to defend the resort in any capacity, but they’re on a full-steam damage control media blackout. It’s in the best interest of any corporation to mitigate words and photos getting out that haven’t been groomed by their PR folks. Can’t blame them for that, cause it’s just good biz. The less Ma and Pa NYC know about their favorite ski coffee nook getting blitzed by an avalanche the better. (In JHMR’s eyes).

    That being said, kudos to tetonat.com, jhunderground.com, and tgr for having good pics and forums streams coming during the last week. KEEP IT UP! The only way for any of us to stay in the loop is to keep utilizing and posting on threads and forums like this one.

    While it’s a total bummer what has been occurring, look at a bit of the brightside: #1 If you’re reading this it didn’t kill you. #2 Learn from it and let it make you a better decision maker and sharper philosophical mind.

    My heart goes out to the family of Dave Nodine. Whatever he did, however he did it, we’ve all been there and it has probably been f-ing magic that none of us have gotten killed doing something dumb with planks on at some point.

    Some of my good friends were up patrolling today, and I’d be dying if I’m lying that I didn’t get a little weepy when I got the “all-clear” that no one was hurt or killed.

    Thanks for the photos Greg… I’m making a PPT presentation from them.

  46. Ana December 29, 2008 9:37 pm

    Let’s hope that the events of today bring a much needed dose of humility to all of us who spend time in the mountains. It is extraordinarily lucky that no one was seriously injured or killed. Ski Patrol should be commended for their amazing work, doing everything in their power to keep us all safe during a hellacious week.

    KIA- I hate personal attacks, but your comments are in poor taste. Take the attitude down a notch. Yves’ post was not attacking SP in the least. Read it again- he was pointing out the failing of the JHMR administration in giving the public accurate information. I sympathize with their desire to avoid bad press, but their reluctance to provide the public the facts- facts that would let us all make safer decisions- makes them the last people I am willing to trust about the true conditions of the mountain. SP and the guides I would trust in a heartbeat, but not everyone has access to them. It’s unfortunate that JHMR is the last person many feel like that can trust- they should be the first. And leave the memory of David in peace. The man was one of very few people to be wearing a beacon IB, which says a lot about his safety decisions. Show some respect, and keep your judgemental attitudes to yourself. None of us make perfect decisions in the mountains 100% of the time, and no doubt we’ve all gotten lucky more than we deserve. Condolences to his family and friends.

  47. Greg December 29, 2008 9:47 pm

    Thanks for the comment MountainSurf. I agree that we all could use a bit more perspective in this. Well said and well taken.

  48. KMH December 29, 2008 10:11 pm

    ATLAS- The mountain was still closed. The people you may have seen have lockers up there or are being guided and they are allowed to go up early as long as they wait in the restaurant. They were fortunately sent down which is EXTREMELY unusual and in hind site excellent decision making.

  49. Brady December 29, 2008 11:25 pm

    Atlas, Its standard procedure for Valley Disspatch to start loading the Gondola before the mountain has been cleared to open by patrol. However the guests are required to stay at the top(preferably inside the restaurant, the premere JHMR profit center) until Valley Disspatch(the high command control center)has cleared the mountain to open!

  50. Clara December 29, 2008 11:28 pm

    I’d just like to point out that the groomers also deserve a great deal of admiration for the condition of the mountain over the past week. They are up there all night scraping away with their lives in peril to keep the snow in the right places – before the bombs and ski patrol arrive. They groomed behind the restaurant just last night to clear the snow, without that the structure might have received much more damage. Hats off to all of them as well!

  51. DD December 29, 2008 11:28 pm

    I think the JHMR media “black out” is amateurish. I’ve been in business my whole life and one lesson that is always true is the public is not dumb. Open and complete communication is the best path. That’s why J&J’s frank handling of the Tylenol poisoning is still considered a model for corporations. Anything that feels like spin or half-truth comes back to haunt a corporation because it breaks down their most important asset — trust. Especially in a world of internet, where banning photos is so easy to get around (wit this web site), coming clean from the start is always…always the best corporate decision.

  52. SnowInTheMorn December 29, 2008 11:40 pm

    wow… so much to respond to, but I think for the sake of helping get the facts straight, I’ll just take on KIA’s comment…
    rude rude rude… get your facts straight before you start spouting off about details that are not even confirmed by the JHSP… the line it seems David took in Toilet Bowl was no different than any of us may have taken on any given day… he did not have his skis on any more when he got hit… and he surely did not get up in the morning to go die at the resort…
    In bound closed areas are not left uncontrolled and they are not closed due to avalanche hazards, it is a terrain hazard.
    You seriously need to apologize to David’s friends and family for your comment… that is not the kind of person you want to start off your new year becoming…
    Don’t regurgitate rumors that you can not confirm, especially if your intent is to slander the dead.
    Gross.
    My prayers go out to his wife and family and friends.

  53. GHams December 29, 2008 11:42 pm

    * This is a cross post from TetonAT *

    As for the photos, I don’t think it’s a legal issue, I think it’s more of an internal SAR issue.

    At first I thought it was awful that the Resort/Sheriff wanted the pictures taken down. But I didn’t understand that they were taken as part of an SAR mission – in which case, I understand the privacy issue. It is more of an ethical, professional issue than a legal one – for example, an EMT isn’t supposed to leak photos of accidents, nor would a police officer post a photo of an incident that happened while he was on the clock. It’s expected that privacy in those situations is protected by those personnel.

    I imagine there is some expectation of privacy with SAR, because SAR allows individuals access to scenes the public isn’t invited to. If the pictures came from that access, and the access came SOLELY from being SAR, I think the standards of both journalism and probably SAR would say distributing those is…complicated. Because it was just property damage, I can see why it doesn’t seem a big deal, but imagine if someone on SAR posted a photo of a person who was injured or killed before the family was informed. It’s a short leap in the mind of the policy-makers to allow that information to go directly from SAR to the public. So I think they are drawing a line in the sand on this one. I don’t know if it’s part of a larger, existing policy, or if this issue has been going on for a long time.

    I think the pics and info are both great and that Steve is fantastic, and there is no problem with the photos being posted anywhere else, by anyone else. But I can see where the line is blurry there and why Zimmer is involved, as he makes the ultimate calls on SAR policy – right? It is fair to make rules about what is and isn’t private in that organization. Most organizations have those policies and SAR is probably no different.

    I agree with everyone that the Resort isn’t doing itself any favors with its reaction. No defense there.

  54. Kevin December 30, 2008 12:03 am

    SAR members (Steve Romeo)are not supposed to take private photos in the field when responding to emergencies…or capitalizing on their photos (TetonAT)…that’s why they sign a release stating they won’t?

  55. Mark F. December 30, 2008 2:04 am

    New issues.
    1. Why was a charge ignited on the white spider with people below?

    2. We’ve beat the location issue into the ground. How bout the design of the building? maybe form should follow function when building in a slide path is foolishly proposed and approved.

    3. the avalanche trapped a patroler and rescue dog in the patrol room. they were extracted by punching a hole in the bathroom wall.snow entered the patrol room and knocked out radio contact. why is this possible? the patrol room should have an emergency exit. the patrol room should be built like a bunker. these are the people that we count on to save us. they deserve a ‘safe zone’ even if the resort wants to waste its money on a restaurant in a slide path.

    4. JHMR should consider hazard pay for patrolers or raise their wages to a level cosistent with the skill required, work performed and danger faced.

    5. Nature is God. God is Nature. People could have easily DIED. The JHMR news release states that all employees were accounted for saying nothing of those who were buried. By down-playing the event JHMR is showing the ugly face of publicity. It may be standard corporate BS but we expect better here is Jackson.

    6. Closing the gates may save lives so I’m not saying its a bad idea. Education and information will keep more people out of the backcountry than flipping a few signs the other way. Seeing photos of the damage sends a thousand-word message.

  56. Tim December 30, 2008 9:34 am

    Yahoo’s Homepage Yellowstone Tremors newslink. . .

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081230/ap_on_sc/yellowstone_quakes

  57. YVES DESGOUTTES December 30, 2008 10:08 am

    Hey KIA :
    At least I write my full name.Instead of hiding behind initials. Your insults don’t touch me. Yes I am arrogant, but I am never scared of speaking out for something I feel strongly about , it’s called “being a free man”. I am 63 ,I have been in the mountains since I was 8, I am a racer, backcountry skiier,climber. I know the Swiss , North and Southern French Alps. I was in the Mountain Commandos in France. I have toured and ski most of our local ranges here.
    My statements are directed to the JHMR in general. I will repeat that we could use some fresh expert opinions. I do know there are experts here but they might be able to use further knowledge;those people are humble enough to listen. We are not special in this valley, we are not the best either. If we think that way we will invite further problems.
    In conclusion my thoughts go to the Family of Mr. Nodine and the people who got trapped and injured yesterday, it did not need to happen.
    JHMR would have done better but not reopening the mountain after Saturday’s tragedy.
    PS: Thanks Ana we are on the same wavelength.
    And Anonymous Kevin ,I am of the male gender ,what an ignorant comment that was.
    When all is said and done all the blogging is bullshit and actions taken fron now on will speak more than words.
    Yves R.H. Desgouttes

  58. Rich Anderson December 30, 2008 12:06 pm

    Such a typical JH exchange: An interesting discussion from which we all can gain something degenerating into name-calling and ugly accusations.

  59. Dale December 30, 2008 12:13 pm

    YVES DESGOUTTES – I doubt that fresh expert opinions would have any impact, since it is unlikely that they would deviate from the local expert opinions. What should have an impact is the occurrences of these events, which hopefully will enlighten the decision makers that should be listening to the expert opinions. You are naive if you truly think that being from Europe is an attribute that makes one more qualified when it comes to avalanche issues. There are aspects of avalanche science for which Europeans are not the leaders.

  60. Tim December 30, 2008 1:35 pm

    Looks like there could be some issues resulting from this morning’s Teton Pass bombing. I wonder what the story is up there. The pass cams all say widespread power outage. . . http://www.wyoroad.info/highway/webcameras/WYO22TetonPass/WYO22TetonPass.html

    You would be lead to assume an avi took out power, but who knows.?.

  61. just initials December 30, 2008 2:14 pm

    Think it was the wind last night [gust of 95mph on Rendexvous]. This morning the cam’s time stamps were 130am and 330am roughly, and showed a ton of wind.

    And mr. yves: like dale said the best snow safety analysts are those that have worked at the same mountain for years, decades. We have those here. Yes, sure, there is new info, new research revealing advances in snow science every year. These are fully presented and discussed every two years at the ISSW. I can only assume that JHMR forecasters attend and participate and i would be shocked if they did not. Because of those two facts, i have to disagree with your idea.

  62. Dustin Sunshine December 30, 2008 4:33 pm

    The word around the resort this afternoon, according to a friend who works there, is the resort is planning on going ahead with the NYE party it has planned to hold in the Couloir Restaurant atop the gondola.

    It’s an interesting move considering the somber air that must be permeating the resort right now. It’s kinda like that time after 9-11 when Bush told us to go shopping.

  63. warm coffee and vitamin C December 30, 2008 4:49 pm

    if it were my party, I’d probably go ahead with it, too.

    Steam Powered probably will wear Pieps and helmets.

    ——————-

    “a bowl for the cat, a bowl for the dog, a bowl for me …”

  64. tellybelly December 30, 2008 5:01 pm

    if you don’t believe that money and profit during one of the busiest weeks of the ski season wasn’t A motivator to open the mountain yesterday, than your simply naive. I would venture to guess that JHMR had something to do with the removal of photos off of Teton AT. Don’t point fingers at Steve. Maybe, posting those pictures was not his best decision, but, he is also in the business of getting the truth out to the public, which is admirable. And to those of you who are coming down so hard on Yves, good job Yves on stating the obvious: Bad decision of resort administration for deciding to begin the opening process yesterday morning and putting both workers and civilians in harms way. Who cares if it is normal protocol for guided guests to hang out in the restaurant while the mountain was about to be opened. They were still in danger. And only because they had that privilege because they paid for it. KIA wins the EGO award and should be the embarrassed one. Wow, what an evil thing to say. Thank god the patrollers are all ok. They are doing a great job. Their lives are just as important as all of ours. They have been working their asses off. JHMR needs to keep them safe too. Without them, none of us would be skiing at JHMR.

  65. YVES DESGOUTTES ,aka naive and clueless January 1, 2009 11:24 am

    It is my new year resolution to stop reading blogs.Before I do this , I would like to remind everybody that a week ago Mr. Nodine had no idea that he would make the orbituary column in the JHN&G.Let us think about his family.
    Blogging is like bar talks when all is said and done it just an exercise in releasing energy. I am yet to see blogs changing anything.On the other hand newspapers columns do.
    But for a last time I will sin again and waste my time.
    We will never know the sequences of communications between Ski Patrol and Management of JHMR, that is a given.
    The communications may fall in several categories:
    1- Ski Patrol are the experts and Management has to follow.
    2-Management has the last word and Ski Patrol has to abide.
    3- Ski Patrol and Management take a joint decision if both parties agree.
    4- Ski Patrol and Management disagree then what??
    I will repeat my naive and clueless thoughts that however good we think we are there is room for listening to higher scientific authorities. I am sure that Ski Patrollers are on a continuous education schedule. As to the predictability of avalanches we have to believe that 100’s of millions of dollars which have been spent in understanding snow and ice behaviors have advance our knowledge through-out the world.
    I personally find it very strange that there no snow barriers build at the village in known dangerous areas. I know there are not pretty but they do add to safety.Hence a re-evaluation of snow slides and avalanches is not an outrageous idea.
    We are so sure that we are special and the best that sometimes it cuts us off from reality.
    I have no agenda, I have friends high up in JHMR and acquaintances in Ski Patrol,but I try to think objectively within the realm of my clueless and naive mind.
    In conclusion I wish everyone, happy safe new turns for 2009 ,to those who agree with me and to those who think I am an imbecile.
    No resentments.
    ROGER and OUT.

  66. js January 1, 2009 2:43 pm

    see ya!

  67. Dale January 2, 2009 11:37 am

    Good riddance is right! Suggesting that there are hypothetical “higher scientific authorities” which would have offered any differing opinions regarding the restaurant/Headwall issue is just wishful thinking. And blogging certainly can influence public opinion (e.g. political blogs), so yes your ignorance is sadly apparent.

  68. Gaylan January 3, 2009 11:52 am

    To my friend Mike W., thinking of you and glad you are OK. Continue to be safe and take care.
    G-

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