massive Beaver slide

By Jim Stanford on February 11, 2014

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Beaver Mountain in Hoback Canyon.

What, you were expecting this?

While many people were oohing and aahing about a slow-mo wet slide that oozed into an Italian village, a cataclysmic avalanche occurred over the weekend much closer to home, on the east side of Beaver Mountain.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported last night that a 6-foot-deep slab released and ran 3,100 vertical feet. The center described it as “R5/D5 sized.” That’s a really big droid.

The slide reportedly carved out a new path, destroying hundreds of trees and piling debris 40 feet deep. “The air blast ran further than the debris and snapped trees estimated to be 150 years old,” the center reported.

Not to be confused with a small ski hill in northern Utah (slogan: Ski the Beav!), Beaver Mountain is located east of Hoback Junction. It is skied from time to time by Hoback locals, one of whom phoned in the report to the avalanche center. Motorists have been pulling over in Hoback Canyon to gaze at the site.

Despite its prodigious size, the avalanche was only the second-scariest news of late involving beavers.

(Photo by Phil H)


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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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new features for avalanche forecast

By Jim Stanford on November 21, 2013

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Nov. 10 slide on Jackson Peak.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center began issuing forecasts several weeks early this year, good timing given considerable snowfall and two avalanches (here and here) triggered by skiers in extreme terrain.

Forecasters continue to improve the website. New this winter is an interactive map on the home page that allows users to find forecasts for other mountain ranges around the West, from the Gallatins of Montana to Utah’s Wasatch and even the San Juans in southern Colorado.

The home page also has a photo gallery of recent avalanches and conditions around the region. The site makes it easier for backcountry travelers to submit observations, and new layers on the avalanche event map show closures for motorized use and winter wildlife.

While traffic on the website continues to grow, phone use (307-733-2664) has dropped off sharply, so much so that forecasters have considered eliminating the phone recording. The number of calls has dropped from 40,000 in 2010-11 to 20,000 and then 10,000 the last two winters, forecaster Bob Comey says.

The snow depth at Grand Targhee is 4 feet. Targhee, located on the west slope of the Tetons above Alta, Wyo., opens tomorrow. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which opens on Thanksgiving, has nearly 3 feet of settled snow.


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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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2 killed in avalanches

By Jim Stanford on January 28, 2013

Comments: 2 Comments

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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