Changing conditions are being blamed for three Teton Range avalanches triggered by skiers on Sunday and one on Monday, according to officials.
As temperatures climbed to the low 40s on the floor of Jackson Hole, Wyo., the avalanche danger was rated at “Moderate” for elevations of 7,500 feet and above.
The first slide occurred at about 9,400 feet at noon in the area known as Turkey Shoot on the south side of Avalanche Canyon west of Taggart Lake.
“Near the top of Turkey Shoot, a skier triggered a soft slab which cracked from 20 feet above her and (swept) her off her skis,” the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported. “The snow carried her all the way down and around the corner of the chute pulling out other soft slabs along the way. She deployed an airbag and was not buried in the event and luckily walked away unharmed. Exact dimensions of the slide are unknown.”
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, three skiers set off another avalanche in the Broken Thumb Couloir on the north side of peak 25 Short in the same region as the first slide at about 9,000 feet. The 12-inch deep slide ran “for about 2,000 feet” and spanned the width of the couloir.
“Luckily, I was able to ski off the slab before it was able to take me down, but the snow was highly reactive and moved very quickly,” one of the skiers involved in the avalanche told the avalanche center. “The three of us then descended the couloir, rappelling the crux and skiing into Avalanche Canyon, thankfully unharmed.”
At about 5 p.m., a skier triggered a third Sunday avalanche on a north-facing slope at the top of Maverick — a slope accessed from the winter Granite Canyon trailhead.
“(The skier was) carried about 40 yards to a clump of large trees, buried waist-high standing up, the snow formed a dam at the trees,” the avalanche center reported. “The avalanche deposited about 60 yards below at a dense tree line.”
On Monday, a ski cut caused a wind slab to slide about 200 feet wide down the Nugget couloir on the slopes of Cloudveil Dome on the southern wall of Avalanche Canyon at about 1:30 p.m. The skier was not involved in the slide.
The current avalanche forecast says wind slabs have been forming at upper elevations and may slide.
“Although most of these slabs have had relatively small crown depths, backcountry travelers are encouraged to remember that initially small slides can pick up significant amounts of snow in runs that are steep and long such as couloirs,” according to the avalanche center’s online report. “Additionally, small slides can quickly sweep people into or over cliff areas and rocks in exposed terrain.”
For up-to-date forecasts and event reports, go to jhavalanche.org.