By Jim Stanford on January 6, 2010
Word comes from a reliable source that a ski patroller has been seriously injured in an avalanche this morning at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche forecasters rated the danger today as “high,” meaning mostly unstable snow exists on a variety of slopes and avalanches are likely.
All lifts on the upper mountain are on hold.
Update: Statement from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort:
At approximately 8:26am this morning routine early morning avalanche hazard reduction work by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) Ski Patrol triggered an avalanche of significant size down the northeast aspect of Cheyenne Bowl on the upper mountain.
This incident took place prior to the lifts being open to the public, but members of JHMR Ski Patrol were in the vicinity. One member of JHMR Ski Patrol was buried in the slide and an immediate search was conducted, the patroller dug out and transported to the Village Clinic.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort received 10 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and over 30 inches in the previous week.
A news conference about this incident will be held today at 12.00 m.s.t in the Upstairs Conference Room, Olympic Sports Plaza, Teton Village.
Update 10:05 a.m.: The injured patroller is Mark “Big Wally” Wolling.
The resort issued this follow-up statement at 12:40 p.m.:
Members of JHMR Ski Patrol were conducting routine avalanche hazard reduction on the Cheyenne Bowl Route (Elevation Approx 9350’). An initial hand charge was deployed from Rendezvous Trail into Cheyenne Bowl with no result. Two patrollers ski cut the area below and deployed two more hand charges. These second charges caused the snow to fracture above where the patrolmen were located. One was able to self arrest using a tree and the other was caught in the slide.
The avalanche traveled over a cliff below to the bottom of Cheyenne Bowl. Mark Wolling (Patrolman since 1989) was buried in the slide. Following a hasty search by patrollers in the vicinity, Wolling was found and uncovered from approximately 6 feet of snow in about ten minutes.
JHMR Ski Patrol conducted CPR and administered AED (Automated External Defibrillator) while readying for transport to the Teton Village Clinic. Wolling was transported to Teton Village Clinic in approximately six minutes, where further treatment was administered. At the time of transport to St Johns Medical Center, Jackson, Wolling was exhibiting vital signs.
“It has been an extremely tough morning for all our patrollers and staff. I am very grateful to everyone for their efforts. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and his family right now. He is an amazing person who has been on the JHMR team since 1978, he’s definitely part of our family,” 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.
At the time of this release Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is operating all lifts except for the Aerial Tram, Sublette and Thunder quad which will remain closed for the remainder of the day.
The next JHMR statement regarding this incident will be made at 4.00pm MST today.