in memoriam: Slim Weston

By Jim Stanford on February 12, 2014

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Leon “Slim” Weston

Leon “Slim” Weston, the iconic cowboy lifty who greeted skiers at Grand Targhee for 45 winters, died last night after a battle with cancer. He was 72 years old.

Weston’s smile, cowboy hat and long, lean frame were a fixture at Targhee since the resort’s inception in 1969. He appeared in Warren Miller films and a host of ski magazines, gaining as much of a reputation as the resort’s fresh powder. A snowboarder, he was known to give out hugs and back rubs in the lift lines.

“He is the spirit of Grand Targhee and is greatly missed,” resort spokesman Ken Rider said. “A bunch of heavy hearts over here today.”

Weston was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011 and had been fighting an ongoing battle. Still, he worked three days at the resort last week.

“Whatever he wanted to work, we’d let him work,” Rider said.

Weston was a farmer and rancher who lived outside Driggs. He got his nickname after riding up on his horse at the beginning of a Miller ski movie, and the filmmaker called him “Ol’ Slim.”

Rider said the resort is deferring to Weston’s family on plans for a memorial service. More information will be posted as soon as it is available.

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avalanche kills skier on Pucker Face

By Jim Stanford on December 26, 2013

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Crown of the avalanche on Pucker Face. Click to enlarge.

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.”

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avalanche claims Jarad Spackman

By Jim Stanford on March 1, 2013

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Jarad Spackman in Alaska in 2010.

An avalanche in Grand Teton National Park has claimed the life of snowboard mountaineer Jarad Spackman.

Spackman, a well-known Teton County resident and realtor, was caught while ascending the Apocalypse Couloir near the mouth of Death Canyon. He was carried approximately 1,000 feet, and his partner was unable to revive him, according to a park release. He was 40 years old.

The full press release follows after the jump.

Spackman was an experienced mountaineer who notched dozens of difficult descents throughout the Teton Range in the last 10 to 15 years. Only two weeks ago he explored a new route in the same area of Death Canyon with his brother, Brandon, and writer Christian Beckwith, who chronicled the experience.

This horrific news leaves many of us numb right now. My deepest condolences go out to Jarad’s family and friends.

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in memoriam: Joe Casey

By Jim Stanford on February 5, 2013

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This team photo was typical of Casey’s sense of humor.

The Jackson Hole community is struggling to come to grips with the death yesterday of Moose hockey player Joe Casey.

Casey was a 13-year veteran of the Moose, the captain and all-time leading scorer. He was one of the funniest characters ever to grace the Snow King ice.

Teammates say he may have died of pneumonia. He had been feeling ill over the weekend and sought medical attention, but the severity of his illness may have been unknown. An autopsy is pending, his brother Mikey said. He was 37 years old.

Shock was the prevailing emotion late Monday night, as friends gathered in the Moose locker room at Snow King. While teammates traded stories, many people were still in disbelief, as if his death were a hoax he might have staged for a laugh.

Only three days earlier, on Friday night, he tallied two assists in Jackson’s 5-4 win over the Chicago Chargers, according to the club’s website.

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2 killed in avalanches

By Jim Stanford on January 28, 2013

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Nick Gillespie on Static Peak.

No sooner had skiers and riders relearned the joy of fresh powder yesterday than two people died in separate avalanches around Jackson.

Grand Teton National Park has identified the man killed in a slide in the northern part of the range as Nick Gillespie, a seasonal worker.

Gillespie was skiing with three companions on Survey Peak when the slide occurred, said spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

Earlier today authorities identified another victim from an avalanche in Hoback Canyon as Liza Benson, 28.

Gillespie, 30, worked on the park’s trail crew for several years, Skaggs said. He and his party skied into the Berry Creek area on the west shore of Jackson Lake on Thursday and had spent several days in the backcountry.

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