Rando Steve missing in park; avalanche feared

Chris Onufer on the Middle Teton.

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.

Steve Romeo of Teton AT.

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.

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Posted under Deaths, Environment, Sports

17 Comments so far

  1. Scott March 8, 2012 10:19 am

    Crossing our fingers…

  2. Boat 1 Retired March 8, 2012 1:20 pm

    Jim, I too am left speechless. We lost two fine individuals. Can’t tell you how many times Steve tuned my skis at his work, how many times he fixed my battered tele boots-hell just last week he waxed up my skate skis. Both he and Chris will be sorely missed by this community. RIP

  3. Collin March 8, 2012 1:48 pm

    This is terrible news. Steve and Chris, you will be missed.

  4. dave March 8, 2012 1:50 pm

    Such a tragedy. Thoughts and prayers to families and loved ones. This makes 5 people lost in the backcountry in the last 3 weeks.

  5. Chad March 8, 2012 1:57 pm

    Loved my frequent shop talk with Rando Steve – and Teton AT was clearly the awesome representation of Romeo himself; powerful respect for the mountains. I wish his family and friends near and far peace during these sad days.

  6. Andy March 8, 2012 2:13 pm

    Uhhh, I was just reading the posts in order and that last one kinda took my breath away. My thoughts and prayers for their friends and families.

  7. Yukon Cornelius March 8, 2012 2:19 pm

    Steve was a big inspiration to a lot of people. You will be missed.

  8. Tater March 8, 2012 2:21 pm

    RIP. My condolences to the friends and family of both involved.

  9. Heather March 8, 2012 2:40 pm

    My condolences to Steve and Chris’ family and friends.

  10. Jim Stanford March 8, 2012 4:03 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, folks. There is a memorial post forthcoming on Teton AT where people can share remembrances and say goodbye. Also, friends have set up a Facebook page, Live to Ski — http://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfSteveRomeoChrisOnufer

  11. ps March 8, 2012 4:27 pm

    This is surely a sad day for the JH community. They will be greatly missed.
    RIP

  12. kathleen barrow March 8, 2012 5:07 pm

    I am so shocked and very sad for this great loss. I am Steves cousin and my prayers are with Elaine and Steve and the girls. I love you all. Kathy

  13. Rob Weinstein March 8, 2012 5:25 pm

    Damn…

  14. Marian Ruzicka March 8, 2012 5:31 pm

    Horrible loss. Prayers for the family.

  15. Joan Anzelmo March 8, 2012 7:02 pm

    Can’t get Steve’s smile out of my head.
    Sad sad day for so many people who knew Steve and Chris and for entire JH community.

  16. Amanda March 8, 2012 7:58 pm

    a sad day indeed. rip Chris and Steve.

  17. W.Pratt March 8, 2012 9:24 pm

    Two more dear friends lost doing something they loved to do. I will miss you boys! Peace

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