By Jim Stanford on March 8, 2012
Grand Teton National Park rangers have launched a search for two ski mountaineers missing since yesterday in the northern part of the range.
The skiers are Steve Romeo, publisher of the blog Teton AT, and Chris Onufer, a longtime Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employee.
The two reportedly set out to ski a couloir off Ranger Peak yesterday but did not return as planned. Onufer’s car was found at Colter Bay last night.
A helicopter has been dispatched to search for the skiers, a park spokeswoman said. Rangers are preparing another team with snowmobiles. Ranger Peak is located north of Mount Moran on the west side of Jackson Lake.
Romeo and Onufer are experienced mountaineers who likely would have been prepared to spend the night if something went wrong.
Update 10:40 a.m.: Rangers have spotted signs of an avalanche on Ranger Peak. The park is assessing the safety of putting searchers on location and is trying to locate beacon signals.
Update 11:55 a.m.: Rangers flying in a helicopter this morning located two beacon signals in a debris field on the south face of Ranger Peak. A team of seven rangers is on the mountain conducting a probe search of the debris, which is said to be a quarter-mile long.
Update 12:50 p.m.: Rangers have recovered two bodies. I have no words to convey the grief many of us are feeling right now. Steve and Chris were fine, outstanding people. My prayers are with them and their family and friends.
Update 4:30 p.m.: Romeo and Onufer were found with skins on their skis, meaning the avalanche likely caught them on their way up. The following is the latest press release from Grand Teton National Park:
Grand Teton National Park rangers have recovered the bodies of two local and expert backcountry skiers who were the focus of a search and rescue mission on Thursday morning, March 8. Chris Onufer and Steve Romeo, both of Jackson, Wyoming, were buried by a large avalanche sometime Wednesday, March 7. The avalanche initiated near the summit of the 11,355-foot Ranger Peak in the northern end of the Teton Range; it ran to the base of the peak, depositing a large debris field in Waterfalls Canyon.
During an aerial reconnaissance flight rangers picked up two positive beacon hits at 8:48 a.m. from the debris field. Seven rangers were flown to the area to begin a physical search of the debris field using probe poles. Rangers reached the first body around 11:45 a.m. and second around noon.
A Teton County Search and Rescue contact helicopter and crew assisted in the search and rescue mission, and Teton Interagency helitack personnel assisted with the temporary helibase established at the Colter Bay swim beach on the east shore of Jackson Lake.
The avalanche danger was listed as moderate on Wednesday afternoon, and low on Thursday morning, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche center.