February snowfall just shy of record

By Jim Stanford on February 28, 2014

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Jess McMillan gets a faceful during this month’s near-record snowfall.

With 7 inches of new snow measured this morning in Rendezvous Bowl, February 2014 will go down as the second-snowiest February since record keeping began at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in 1975.

This month has seen 133 inches of snow fall in the Tetons, trailing only the infamous February 1986, when the Headwall slid to Teton Village and a ski patroller died during avalanche control work.

“This is a very close second to an unbelievable year, an unbelievable February,” Bridger-Teton avalanche forecaster Bob Comey says.

The precise amount of snowfall that fell in Rendezvous Bowl in February 1986 will never be known, as the upper mountain was closed for eight days because of avalanche danger. The 129 inches listed on the avalanche center’s website is an estimate, Comey says.

An additional inch of moisture fell in February 1986, and the mid-mountain study plot received 122 inches of snowfall, compared to this month’s 117.

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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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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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Chasing Ice screening at Walk Hall

By Jim Stanford on January 15, 2014

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The film chronicles shrinking glaciers.

Staffers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort have organized an inaugural Eco Night on Thursday, featuring a screening of the acclaimed documentary Chasing Ice.

Chasing Ice is photographer Jim Balog‘s attempt to chronicle the rapidly changing Arctic landscape. Balog placed cameras in some of the harshest environments on Earth and shot time-lapse images of glaciers for three years. He found mountains of ice disappearing.

Also at the intersection of skiing and climate change, writer Porter Fox will be in Jackson on Saturday night promoting his book Deep, which ponders diminishing snow and the sport’s uncertain future. Fox will sign copies of the book during a party at Q Roadhouse, and Lazy Eyes will perform.

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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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