Another Avalanche Goes Inbounds at Jackson Hole

Post by blogger | December 29, 2008      

Sketchy details at this time, but folks are saying that an area called the “Headwall” slid into the resort at about 9:30 this morning and damaged occupied buildings. No reported injuries or fatalities. Prayers from here to all who are responding to the scene.

Jackson Hole Avalanche

Before the resort disabled their webcam, this image was captured showing ski patrol probing next to the slide damaged resturant.

Inbounds avalanche safety tips.

Jackson Hole inbounds avalanche

Section of trail map, area of avalanche overlayed with red circle.

JHMR statement:
Originally Posted by JHMR

(Jackson Hole, Wyoming, December 29, 2008 4:00pm MST) At approximately 9:26 am this morning routine avalanche hazard reduction work by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) Ski Patrol triggered an avalanche of significant size down the southeast aspect of an area at JHMR referred to as the Headwall. The Headwall which had not been open to the public this season to date and was not expected to open in the near future, consists of steep, expert terrain.

The slide descended from the top of the Headwall, and a second slide was triggered, which continued down to the base of the run reaching the west and south sides of the building that houses three resort restaurants, causing considerable non-structural damage to the building.

This incident took place prior to the Bridger Gondola being open to the public, but a number of JHMR operational employees were in the vicinity. A search for potential victims was conducted and by 10:06am, all JHMR employees were accounted for.

Following the incident a decision was made to close the resort temporarily while further avalanche hazard reduction work took place. Lower mountain lifts were quickly re-opened. At this time the upper mountain remains closed while Ski Patrol continues its avalanche hazard reduction routines in an attempt to get the resort re-opened as quickly and safely as possible.

Due to the significant snowfall received in the Teton region (62 inches in past seven days), we have received a request from our partners at Bridger Teton National Forest to close the OB gates into the surrounding backcountry. JHMR will honor this request and close all our gates into the backcountry until further notice.



16 Responses to “Another Avalanche Goes Inbounds at Jackson Hole”

  1. Marc December 29th, 2008 12:40 pm

    Slid before the gondi started running. According to the resort everyone accounted for. Damage to the restaurant at the top of the gondola. JHMR is closed until further notice according to their press release. Unclear if it was a natural release or not.

    The headwall slid in ’86. I wasn’t there and have only seen pictures, but it ran nearly to the foot of the mountain to were the Union Pass lift is. By the pics this seems to be a much smaller slide. Prayers are with all involved.

  2. ScottN December 29th, 2008 3:07 pm

    Good reminder article in the Aspen Daily News today regarding avalanche danger.

  3. Geof December 29th, 2008 3:36 pm


    Looks like it’s a nasty year everywhere. Going to be a interesting spring… Be careful out there everyone. Glad there were no injuries.

  4. Mark December 29th, 2008 4:57 pm

    Wow! I recall one at Alpine Meadows back in the ’80s that, unfortunately, was far worse and destroyed at least one building.

  5. Lou December 29th, 2008 5:23 pm

    …and remember at that Alpine Meadows accident a girl was rescued alive from the building wreckage after what was it, several days?

  6. Tom December 29th, 2008 6:31 pm

    She was found after 5 days. 7 Fatalities. Luckily, the resort had been shut down due to the conditions and very few employees were on site.

  7. John W December 29th, 2008 7:34 pm

    check out for photos.

  8. John W December 29th, 2008 7:41 pm

    holy big brother – I just rechecked and the amazing photos of snow in the restaurant are gone. What’s up Steve?????

  9. Lou December 29th, 2008 7:46 pm

    John, I didn’t get to see those but imagine Steve got them when he was on a rescue mission. Most SAR outfits discourage members from doing freelance journalism on or just after missions, so perhaps Steve had to tone it down. Or perhaps the resort didn’t like the photos? Or perhaps Steve has some better ones for us he’s processing as we speak? Like you guys, I was looking forward to his report. Steve?

  10. John Gloor December 29th, 2008 8:43 pm

    NOT that I’m tempted to go OB right now, but what are the legalities of going out of bounds to Forest Service lands. I was under the impression that here in Aspen one can duck out whenver/whever one wants to into national forest lands, not only at gates. An article in the local papers said three people were cited for going OB yesterday at the Highlands. Were they OB or did they duck a rope into a closed area? The article above said JHMR was closing its gates to Teton national forest. Can each resort or forest have different access rules? I don’t mean to hijack this topic but the gate closure mention got me wondering about this.

  11. Mark December 29th, 2008 8:44 pm

    North of the border.

  12. Lou December 29th, 2008 10:22 pm

    Gloor, the way they usually do it in Colorado is they set up the gate with a “buffer” of permit area beyond the gate. That way, if they “close” the gate you have to cross closed permit area and are thus violating the Skier’s Safety Act. Back in the fascist days Highlands used to have a complete buffer like this around the whole resort. Perhaps they still do. Interesting how the Skier’s Safety Act cuts different ways. It helps us by limiting resort liability, but also provides the legal framework to keep us off our own land. Or at least that’s the way I’ve been led to understand it.

    Don’t know how they close access to the backcountry in Wyoming, but probably by some similar trick. It’s just weird to me that they’d have two inbounds avalanches then close the OB gates. Am I the only one that sees some sort of irony in that? Heck, perhaps the snow is safer in the backcountry than at the resort ! (just kidding)

  13. John Gloor December 29th, 2008 11:31 pm

    Lou, I remember those days but I was a good boy in high school then and did not go OB often. I thought they had a closed line inside the ski area boundary and one would have to cross it to reach the ski area boundary. I think that changed at the urging of some attorneys within the ski co and the forest service in the early 90’s. The deletion of the closed boundary opened up access to the area boundary. It is common practice at Ski Co mtns to duck the rope and not use a gate at many points (Maroon bowl, lower steeplechase, Keno, Peanut butter ridge, Midnight mine and others). Does anyone know if this practice is legal or just tolerated? Could the gates (if required) be closed here? I hate it when access to our public lands is a privilege and not a right.

  14. Chase December 30th, 2008 7:09 am

    I have been reading some of the local blogs from different J Hole
    web sights and it sounds like the locals up there are pretty fed up
    with the JHMR management. It also sounds like they want to string
    Jerry Bland , JHMR CEO, up from the highest lift tower. Jerry Bland,
    gee theres a name from the past, former CEO OF SKI CO back in
    the day. I beleive he invoked simular feelings in this part of the ski
    world as well. Think about it.

  15. wineskindrew December 30th, 2008 11:38 am

    skiied plenty at jackson and highlands…alas, guess these are yet some more of the reasons why we as a larger group simply avoid the resort…there are some days i wish i wasnt so idealistic and ithat i could just go area skiing…think about your 90 dollars lift ticket…its to pay for ski area insurance policy for the most part and pay for some huge lack of vision. where is your input when they want to build a fancy restaurant under a huge huge (head)wall slide path. enjoy the backcountry…avoid to steeps for sure…

  16. Johnny V December 31st, 2008 12:47 pm

    “10:24 a.m.
    A Web cam showing the aftermath of the slide is shut down by JHMR officials. JHMR later pressures Sheriff Bob Zimmer to order TCSAR responder Steve Romeo to take down photos from his website TetonAT. Romeo’s shots show piles of snow inside the Couloir. Romeo reluctantly complies. “

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