Ski Patrolman Seriously Injured in JHMR Avalanche

Update: Unfortunately, Mark Wolling was unable to recover from his injuries.  
Peace be with you Big Wally…I hope the snow is soft and the winds are light in heaven.

big-wallyAt approximately 8:26am today, Mark “Big Wally” Wolling was swept down Cheyenne Bowl while in the process of conducting avalanche reduction work on Route 7 prior to the opening of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Wolling was dug out from under 6′ of avy debris within 10-15 minutes by his route partner, showed no signs of life and immediately was administered CPR. An AED device was also used on location in an attempt to revive him. After being transported to the base of the ski area, Wolling had a detectable pulse and was immediately transported to Saint John’s Hospital, where he was soon further transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and remains in critical condition.

big-wally-avalanche
Avalanche in Cheyenne Bowl that caught Mark Wolling. Photo: JHMR.

The location of the incident, Cheyenne Bowl, had been controlled for avalanches previously this year, but did not produce any slides. The area had not yet been opened to the public this season. Wolling and his partner had dropped into the bowl after already throwing one explosive device on the slope. When Wolling threw another below a cliffband he was positioned above, the slope fractured above him and his partner, sweeping him over the cliff and down to the bottom of the bowl. His partner was able to self arrest by grabbing on to some trees prior to initiating a search and eventual recovery of his buried partner.

  • Length of Avalanche Path – Approx: 1000 feet
  • Crown Height (Max): 42 inches. 3.5 feet
  • Crown Length: 130 feet wide
  • Avy Classification (1-5): R3D3
  • Cliff Band Height: 25-30 feet
  • Slope Angle: 34 Degrees

Positive vibes are requested for 20 year veteran ski patroller
Mark “Big Wally” Wolling while he battles to overcome his injuries.

40 Comments

40 Responses to “Ski Patrolman Seriously Injured in JHMR Avalanche”


  1. 1 Bighorn Powder Guides Jan 6th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Big huge hugs and get wells from all of us here at Bighorn Powder Guides.

  2. 2 randosteve Jan 6th, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks Bighorn. I don’t think Wally had any enemies in this town. The guy deserves to LIVE!!!!!!!

  3. 3 Bighorn Powder Guides Jan 6th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Amen to that. Jake

  4. 4 Dawna Wilson Jan 6th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    My family and myself send lots of love and support to wally and MariAnne…also to the Patrol who are very professional and work very hard.Our hearts and prayers are with you all Dawna Wilson

  5. 5 Jim Jan 7th, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Sending positive thoughts for Wally !

  6. 6 Hollis Brooks Jan 7th, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Come on Wally- you have gotten through things like this before. We are all pulling for you and looking forward to the next round of bishop caps.

  7. 7 Holly Riffe Jan 7th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Big Wally! If anyone can do it….you can! My prayers are with you.

  8. 8 Chris Denny Jan 7th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Come on Wally!!!!!!

  9. 9 Nick Jan 7th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Vibes for sure – hope he pulls through. Special thoughts to all the patrollers who risk their lives everyday to keep mountains open for the masses.

  10. 10 randosteve Jan 7th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Please visit Carepages.com for updates on Mark’s status. You will need to set up and account…and then search for Mark. Hang in there Wally!!!

  11. 11 Shandy Jan 8th, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Yo Big; hang in there. You got this one. Stay strong!!!

  12. 12 Pete the pete Jan 8th, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Ouff. Take good care of you WALL-E. They were an Eve to guide your partnern
    Regards

  13. 13 Shanie Jan 8th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Sending tons of healing energy and good vibe from Patagonia.

  14. 14 Will Jan 8th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Many prayers being sent from the right/ice coast for a full recovery! We appreciate so much Wally and all patrollers who do so much to keep us safe.

  15. 15 Steve Morrison Jan 8th, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Hey Big Wally- saddened to hear about this. ++++++++VIBES+++++++ sent your way.
    On behalf of the Fernie Alpine Resort Ski Patrol, many of us who have met you while on exchange at Jackson, a speedy recovery for you.

  16. 16 Hollis Brooks Jan 9th, 2010 at 8:05 am

    RIP Big- you will be more than missed

  17. 17 randosteve Jan 9th, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Agreed Hollis. RIP Wally!!!!

  18. 18 chappy Jan 9th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I like to think that good things can come out of bad, i think it is time to realize that more needs to be done to protect the patrollers when they are out doing Avalanche control. Maybe accidents like Mark (Big Wally) Wolling’s can heighten our awareness that there are some measures which haven’t been taken that may give a patroller caught in an event a better chance of surviving it.

    Police wouldn’t consider going into a possible shoot out without a bullet proof vest nor would a fireman consider going into a burning building without his protection and life supporting equipment. Then why should our patrollers got out into harms way without similar safety equipment.

    When i think of Ski Patrols i think of safety first, they are the the mountain avalanche controllers, policeman and paramedics all wrapped up into one job description,

    I live outside of the community but have many friends that do live in Jackson, i think that a fundraiser to purchase shoulder sling Avalungs and ABS float bag systems for the patrollers while they are out doing mountain control needs to be initiated.

    These patrollers put themselves in harms way for us to make the mountain more secure for all of us to enjoy, they need not be the victims in doing so. Yes these life saving systems do not guaranty a 100% survival if caught up in an event, but they do offer some sort of % over not having one at all.

    I can contact certain people in the Jackson community to help me do this, but if anyone wishes to organize this and believes in it as i do, please do.

    I would like to hear your ideas and suggestions, at minimal 30 sling type Avalungs could probably be purchased for under $3,000.

    Chappy

  19. 19 Mike S Jan 9th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    RIP Wally. I remember meeting him on an exchange while patrolling at Solitude, UT several years ago.
    A friendly vet with a sweet ‘stache and a Hawaiian shirt under his vest in the middle of February.
    Could have been any of us out there. Be safe and full of appreciation.

  20. 20 randosteve Jan 9th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    chappy…you make some good points and personally i think AvaLungs should be a mandatory piece for equipment for patrol…at least on high danger days during snow control. would be nice if someone could raise some cash or donate some money so they could get some.

    if you need some help with who you might talk to at BD about putting a program together…let me know. steve

  21. 21 km Jan 9th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    wyoming osha is going to do there share to increase our burden. we do not need more legislation to increase our safety.we are free to wear as much gear as we can stand.Do not judge us as you do not understand what we do.No one of us feels Kathryn or Wally could be saved by technology.Life presents us with these these things and that’s that.If you don’t agree agree,stay home.

  22. 22 TO Jan 9th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    KM… As you probably know, when Paul Driscoll was buried on Dec.2, ’85, none of the patrollers on the scene had shovels to dig him out. Perhaps at the time, carrying a shovel was considered a burden. How do you think your peers 25 years from now would view your position? That Chappy and I should be scorned for suggesting someething be learned and done? That offering a gift is wrong? If you can’t change your view at least change the tone. The mountains are our home. We might understand more than you know. There are burdens greater than ones that weight a couple pounds.
    For now, let’s all face our grief and loss for what it is, without anger or regret.

  23. 23 gringo Jan 10th, 2010 at 5:34 am

    RIP Wally. good luck on the other side…

  24. 24 km Jan 10th, 2010 at 6:50 am

    I apologize for my previous comment

  25. 25 randosteve Jan 10th, 2010 at 7:02 am

    no worries km…many snow professionals think the AvaLung should be standard equipment, much like a transceiver, shovel and probe. maybe partollers wouldn’t use them everyday…but maybe they should at least have them available if they want them?

  26. 26 chappy Jan 10th, 2010 at 10:13 am

    There has been some talk with the patrollers, and i think there view was positive in wearing or having Avalungs available for them to use.

    Back in the day we tried to use snorkels to help us breathe during face shots, as restrictive as Avalungs are in breathing, if caught up in an event, it is still better than not being able to breathe at all while running with it, let alone being buried.

    I’ve worn one now for 4 seasons, i hope i never have to use it in a real event but am trying to be prepared for the worst.

  27. 27 Jake Jan 11th, 2010 at 7:57 am

    $3000 seems like an incredibly small amount for the resort. Does anyone know why they haven’t done this?

  28. 28 Jeff Appleby Jan 11th, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I believe any chance for survival above what the patrol now has at their disposal must be made available. ABS bags and avalung save lives – fact!

    Suggest to corporate mountain presidents that they may be liable and attitudes will change.

    All kinds of jobs require safety gear and to not provide it is morally and legally unethical.

  29. 29 randosteve Jan 11th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    jeff/jake…i think it’s only a matter of time before you see the AvaLung as standard equipment for patroller…at least during snow control. sorta takes some time for a lot of the old-timer to accept the new gadgets.

  30. 30 Jake Jan 11th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Steve,

    If you will talk to the resort, and after speaking to them they are still unable to provide this equipment themselves, I will pledge $1000 if the resort will do $1000 and the patrol will raise $1000 (I suggest the patrol gathers this with the first part being a volume discount and advertising by bd).

    I suspect the resort will refuse this offer as they will fear this would admit things would have been different if the equipment was in use. My offers stands in any event,

  31. 31 randosteve Jan 11th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    jake…you are the man! that is a very gracious and generous offer…and really a good idea as far as marketing with bd on the whole shebang.

    don’t be too quick to judge jhmr. there are some smart people in the right places out there…and i think there is a heightened awareness to all things regarding safety and technology. in the end…people want to do the right thing…and if an AvaLung has the ability to save someone’s life…then it should be used.

    just thinking out loud here…but i wonder if TetonAT could raise the last $1000 instead of jhsp?

  32. 32 Jake Jan 12th, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Sure.

  33. 33 chappy Jan 12th, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Steve,
    I am so happy to see the support here,if the ski Corp doesn’t spring for the Equipment I am glad to see that we are willing to.
    I think there is talk going on over there so lets see what they come up with, and i am going to continue to see if i can get some ABS system’s for them to try.
    I am trying to schedule a meeting with the CEO of Avivest to get a look at what they have to offer even though they are still in the testing faze.

  34. 34 randosteve Jan 12th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    chappy…that is the first time i’ve seen that vest/abs combo…cool. man…throw an avalung in that thing and i would think that a ski patroller would be psyched to have it! keep me posted and let me know if you need any help on my end.

  35. 35 Jake Jan 12th, 2010 at 11:03 am

    How much would this package (vest and avalung) and how many would they need?

  36. 36 chappy Jan 12th, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Surprising to me is that that are trying to reinvent a lot of this technology, I think a lot
    of the scuba stuff is a similar crossover along with using bits and pieces from the Paintball equipment like the 9 ci compressed air aluminum cylinders. There is a lot of self inflating things out there if you look hard enough for them.

    Scuba BC’s implement emergency filling and also a provision to breathe from it in case of an emergency via a simple regulator. Float bags and lift bags in every size and shape are also similar to what they are developing for the ABS bag. These things are things i would love to discuss with them along with the idea of a waist, seat harness type fanny pack that could support the ABS instead of a backpack or vest.
    this could be used in a similar way as a sling Avalung as an accessory that you could wear.

    Maybe i should cob together a prototype to show them.

    I know the purpose of the ABS is to prevent burial but if the only purpose they served was to provide
    a visual location of where the victim came to rest, the minutes saved would be invaluable. As good as
    the beacon technology is your still fishing for the victim with the beacon and probes.

  37. 37 Jake Jan 14th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Steve

    How can we move this along?

  38. 38 randosteve Jan 14th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    jake…have you contacted the ski area? i can give some contact info if you need it. i guess the first step would be to see if jhsp really even wants avalungs…right?

  39. 39 Jake Jan 21st, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I have not. Can you contact them? I would prefer to just be an anonymous donor.

  40. 40 randosteve Jan 21st, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    jake…i will see what i can do…and be in touch via email. assuming you entered in a legit email address when commenting.

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