avy forecast debuts new look

By Jim Stanford on November 16, 2012

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Redesigned forecast page.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center began issuing its online forecasts this week loaded with new graphics and features, in what forecaster Bob Comey calls a “soft opening” for the site.

Avalanche hazard and mountain weather forecasts are available for the Teton area twice daily, at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Forecasts for the Greys River and Togwotee Pass areas are posted each morning.

New this year is a section called “Avalanche Problems,” which explains the type of hazard backcountry users should look for. A graphic illustrates the aspects and elevations where the problem can be found, and other metrics show the size, likelihood and distribution, as well as whether the trend is growing worse.

The center received grants from the Forest Service and 1 Percent for the Tetons to upgrade the service, which received more than 1.3 million visits via web, email and phone (307-733-2664) last winter. Online page views were up 65 percent, while the number of phone calls dropped in half.

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in memoriam: Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer

By Jim Stanford on March 11, 2012

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Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer after skiing Teepe Pillar on one of their first backcountry adventures in the Tetons, winter 1996-97. Steve was using alpine trekker bindings, while Chris wore leather tele boots. Photo by Reed Finlay.

A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw
Delivered him wings, ‘Hey, look at me now’

~ Pearl Jam, Given to Fly

A public memorial service for ski mountaineers Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the outdoor plaza at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. A reception will follow afterward at the Mangy Moose.

Romeo, 40, and Onufer, 42, died in an avalanche March 7 in Grand Teton National Park. They were ascending Ranger Peak when the slide occurred.

So much has been written about these two in recent days, and the loss so devastating, that it’s hard for me to add much. I had known both since we worked on the mountain at JHMR in the mid-1990s, me as a photographer and them running the lifts. When I started guiding whitewater on the Snake, Steve was a photographer in the canyon before joining the staff of Skinny Skis.

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avalanche kills 2 on Ranger Peak

By Jim Stanford on March 8, 2012

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This graphic provided by Teton park rangers shows where on Ranger Peak the slide broke and where the bodies were found. The avalanche carried the skiers nearly 3,000 feet. Click to enlarge.

More details have emerged about yesterday’s avalanche that killed skiers Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer in Grand Teton National Park.

The two were skinning uphill within a few hundred feet of a saddle below the 11,355-foot summit of Ranger Peak when the slide occurred. The crown of the avalanche was at about 10,300 feet. The fracture was a soft slab about 3 feet deep and 600 feet wide.

Romeo and Onufer were carried nearly 3,000 feet down the mountain. The toe of the slide debris was at an elevation of about 7,200 feet and measured about 90 feet across. The average depth of the debris was about 6 feet.

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Rando Steve missing in park; avalanche feared

By Jim Stanford on March 8, 2012

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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.

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avalanche kills snowmobiler on Togwotee

By Jim Stanford on February 27, 2012

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A snowmobiler died today after being caught in a slide in the vicinity of Togwotee Pass, the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported.

The avalanche occurred in the Dry Lake Creek area, forecasters said. According to Google Maps, Dry Lake Creek is located south of Highway 26/287 and east of Mount Leidy.

Bridger-Teton forecasters rated the danger today as moderate, meaning riders should evaluate snow and terrain carefully. The forecast read:

Backcountry travelers could trigger recently developed wind slabs one to three feet in depth. Any extended periods of sunshine will make these slides more susceptible to failure on sunlit aspects as the day warms. Moderate hazard is not a green light; getting caught in one of these slides has the potential for severe consequences and caution is advised.

Update: The News&Guide reports the snowmobiler was part of a group of 10.
Update 2/28: As commenters have shared, authorities have identified the victim as Jack Loxtercamp, 35, of Minnesota. The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported that Loxtercamp was high-marking on Grouse Mountain when the slide occurred. The slope was east facing and at 9,700 feet.

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