By Jim Stanford on March 8, 2012
More details have emerged about yesterday’s avalanche that killed skiers Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer in Grand Teton National Park.
The two were skinning uphill within a few hundred feet of a saddle below the 11,355-foot summit of Ranger Peak when the slide occurred. The crown of the avalanche was at about 10,300 feet. The fracture was a soft slab about 3 feet deep and 600 feet wide.
Romeo and Onufer were carried nearly 3,000 feet down the mountain. The toe of the slide debris was at an elevation of about 7,200 feet and measured about 90 feet across. The average depth of the debris was about 6 feet.
Rangers found the skiers’ bodies “relatively close to the surface,” park spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said. Romeo’s body was found near the toe of the slide, while Onufer was dug out about 400 yards above him, she said.
It appears neither was wearing a helmet, as they were skinning uphill, Anzelmo-Sarles said. However, the investigation is ongoing. She could not say whether either deployed a float bag or used an Avalung breathing device. The coroner determined blunt trauma was the cause of death, the News&Guide reported.
Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs called the tragedy a “sobering reminder” that even on days of moderate danger, avalanches can catch “people who really know the backcountry and do this kind of thing all the time and play by the rules,” she said. “It’s just sad.”
The mourning continues at Teton AT.
Update 3/22: Angus Thuermer of the News&Guide has a good story with more information from the rangers’ investigation, including the conclusion that no amount of safety gear would have saved the two, only better decision making.
(Graphic by Chris Harder/GTNP)