By Jim Stanford on January 6, 2010
Jackson Hole ski patroller Mark “Big Wally” Wolling is fighting for his life following an avalanche in Cheyenne Bowl this morning.
Wolling was doing avalanche control work when the slide occurred at about 8:30 a.m. He detonated one bomb to the skier’s right of Cheyenne Gully with no result.
He then set off two more hand charges on the edge of the cliff band, and their explosion caused the slope to fail above him and his partner, resort officials said.
The partner managed to self-arrest by grabbing a tree, but Wolling was swept over the cliff and carried several hundred feet to a flat area opposite Bivouac Woods.
Patrollers located him with a transceiver and dug him out in about eight to 10 minutes, Patrol Director Jake Elkins said. Wolling was buried beneath six feet of debris. He was not breathing and had no detectable pulse. Patrollers performed CPR and used an AED, which found no shockable rhythm.
However, after Wolling was transported to the Teton Village Clinic, about 14 minutes later, doctors detected a pulse. He was taken by ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson and may be flown out for care.
A 20-year veteran of the patrol, Wolling, 58, is a beloved figure in the community, having hosted the annual Goatstock party in Wilson for years. Last fall the event benefited Jimmy Zell, a skier crippled by injury and illness.
If anyone can pull out of this, it’s Big Wally.
Wolling survived a paragliding crash on Snow King Mountain about 10 or 12 years ago and in 2004 dodged a grizzly bear attack on Togwotee Pass.
Asked whether staff were encouraged when Wolling’s pulse revived at the clinic, Elkins called it a “positive sign.” Tim Mason, resort VP of operations, said, “Any glimmer of hope is better than nothing.”
Update: The News&Guide reports that Wolling has been flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls for treatment.
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