By Jim Stanford on December 26, 2013
A massive avalanche on a cliff face killed skier Mike Kazanjy today just south of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Kazanjy, 29, who recently came to Jackson from California, triggered the slide at about 1 p.m. on Pucker Face, according to the News&Guide. Several members of his party helped dig him out, and rescuers tried to revive him with CPR, to no avail, the paper reported.
The slide comes after a fast-moving storm deposited more than a foot of snow in the Tetons before Christmas. High winds topping 70 mph buffeted the peaks, creating dangerous conditions.
Today’s Bridger-Teton avalanche advisory warned, “At the mid and upper elevations, backcountry travelers could trigger recently developed wind slabs up to 30 inches deep in steep, wind-loaded terrain.”
A friend who skied in Grand Teton National Park yesterday dug a pit to test stability and found numerous troublesome layers, including sugary-like snow at the base of the snowpack. Today’s avalanche appears to have run all the way to the rock on the cliff.
The Bridger-Teton advisory further warned, “Faceted snow persists throughout the snowpack, and failure could also occur on these deeper layers with slab depths up to four feet. If skies are mostly clear and temperatures are inverted, these slides may become more susceptible to failure in the afternoon on sunlit aspects at the upper elevations.”
Pucker Face approaches 45 degrees in steepness. In early 2012, a snowboarder survived a slide there in an incident caught on video (since deleted). Skiers must leave the resort boundary via a gate and hike a short distance to reach the slope.
Kazanjy was an expert skier and strong athlete who posted about his exploits on social media. A graduate of Cal-Berkeley, he formerly worked for Hotwire.com and was active in the tech industry.
Update: In its evening advisory, the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center said Kazanjy was buried 4 to 5 feet deep. The crown measured 48 inches.