Taylor Mountain Avalanche

Taylor Mountain avalanche, January 24, 2012.

Today, a highly experienced local avalanche guru caused a stir on Taylor Mountain and the Coal Creek region on the west side of Teton Pass when an intentionally triggered avalanche resulted in more than he bargained for. The slide grew in size quickly, pulling out far to the skier’s right and left sides of the main south facing avalanche path on the mountain. The resulting avalanche gouged an impressive path all the way to the bottom of Coal Creek and stimulated calls to Teton County Search and Rescue, who responded via helicopter to investigate. No one was caught or injured in the avalanche.

At around 1:30pm, after multiple descents of the South Face of Taylor Mountain the day before, the skier was attempting to kick off some remaining hang-fire above a natural slide that had occurred earlier. His partners were in a safe zone and he must have hit the sweet spot and more-or-less, the whole south face of Taylor ripped, sending a huge volume of snow in the bottom of Coal Creek. Numerous parties where in the area and the slide created a stir due to how loud and audible it was.

Teton AmPASSador Jay Pistono stands next to the 10-12′ high avalanche path. If you were
to be caught in this slide, there is NO WAY (ABS?) you could possibly survive.

After the slide occurred, parties in the area stood by while the skier that triggered the slide skied downhill to search for any avalanche transceiver signals coming from anyone that might have been caught in the slide path. None were found. The snow debris pile from the slide is said to have covered 100’ of the summer trail and skin-track that goes up Coal Creek from the parking lot, and 30’ up the opposite side of the canyon. On-scene parties report the crown of the avalanche to average about 50-55”, with a maximum height of 6’.

Man, there are numerous things going through my rando-obsessed brain right now relating to this event. I’m pretty sure deep instabilities in the snowpack can be really unpredictable. Even when we are extremely knowledgeable about snow science and the terrain we are skiing (the skier who triggered this slide probably has nearly 1000 descents of Taylor Mountain under his belt, maybe 25 just this year), we are really just playing Russian roulette when we ski these bigger faces under these snow conditions. Holding back from getting into dangerous ground is imperative when we are above terrain traps, even when we think the slope is stable and after prior descents of the same slope.

Another take is that if one were to ski the slope normally (read…shred, haul ass, not load up the slope in the sweet-spot) under the same circumstances, and not try to trigger an avalanche, all that snow would still be sitting there. Food for thought?


256 Responses to “Taylor Mountain Avalanche”

  1. 1 mtsplitski Jan 24th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I guess they don’t call it the Poop Chute for nothing…

  2. 2 journeyman Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Based on your account, it would fair of you to publish the name of this individual since he apparently kicked off a big slide that risked anyone below, particularly if it is a guide/ avalanche instructor. If any student did something like this on an amga course, it would be an instant failure. Wasn’t a well-known exum guide dragged out and flogged by the masses for far less: riding a snowmobile
    across a lake w/o a permit, and lost his job a few years back?

  3. 3 randosteve Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    journeyman…i think most locals know the individual that triggered this event. he wasn’t on an amga exam, so that point shouldn’t matter. how many other amga guides do you think have been caught in avalanches? should they all be put on a list?

    there is nothing illegal about what happened today, so i don’t really see your correlation to the exum guide/snowmobile incident.

  4. 4 rhino Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    in my opinion it is absolutely irresponsible to kick off any slide there, at that time, knowing what layers were lurking, without knowing who was below.

    If there was, or is, anyone in the debris i would not consider manslaughter charges to be inappropriate.

    It’s one thing for a patroller to ski cut and start slides while doing control in unopened terrain. It is totally another thing to do it on an open slope at 1:30 on a sunny afternoon.

  5. 5 randosteve Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    i definitely respect and would like to hear more opinions on this.

    i also think that there is something to be said about the in-exact science of avalanches, and we can’t blame someone when they thought it was all-good.

    if the avy forecast was moderate, and something similar happened, would one be as judgmental?

  6. 6 rhino Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Yes I most certainly would be.

    Otherwise, it’s like saying, well, it’s ok to drive after 12 shots on dry roads, but don’t do it on snowpacked roads, cuz that’s when it starts to get dangerous.

    Don’t create potentially fatal hazards on other people that are otherwise ok.

  7. 7 SimB Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I went down to the parking lot with Jay right after it slid, the skier who triggered it and others who skied it were down there at that point.

    What amazed me was that everyone stuck around to wait for SAR to see if they could help, everyone except the guy who triggered it. Never mind that he is a very experienced mountaineer, to me that is just plain irresponsible.

  8. 8 Davie Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Well put Journeyman. If you’re going to publish timely news, give us all the facts you can Steve. Nobody’s going blame you for accurate reporting. (somebody will, of course.) Thanks for the heads up. Patience Tribe!

  9. 9 Bryan Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Intentionally kicking off avalanches into coal creek drainage = not cool. With that said, skiing in avalanche terrain = taking responsibility for your own actions and risks involved.

  10. 10 SimB Jan 24th, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Personally I don’t think that insisting on being anonymous is taking responsibility for ones actions.

  11. 11 Jon Wiedie Jan 24th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Don’t know who he is but sounds like a f*#king idiot to me. Bottom line, don’t intentionally set off any slide anywhere remotely close to where the results could cross a well known travel route. Common sense you would think.

  12. 12 DLo Jan 24th, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Is this any different than trundling off the Grand in the summer? I would think that anyone with any degree of training (or common sense) would realize that they could be putting others at risk – Taylor isn’t closed for control.

    There seem to be a lot of cavalier attitudes towards the conditions… burial POV footage on a “high” day, and now this. No thanks. I’ll keep skiing like a puss.

  13. 13 Rosewood Jan 24th, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    We all take risks out here. But please we all know the danger level his high at this time. Steve didn’t you just comment about being in SL was saving your life? This guy who triggered it is a fool, no matter how many descents. The only smart thing he did was run and hide.

  14. 14 Drew Tabke Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I for one wouldn’t pass judgement on an individual based on a report I read about them on TetonAT.

  15. 15 Otis Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:39 am

    “Intentionally kicking off avalanches into coal creek drainage = not cool. With that said, skiing in avalanche terrain = taking responsibility for your own actions and risks involved.” – Bryan

    Bryan, I agree with you..

  16. 16 Eric Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Interesting how you wrote this: “If you were to be caught in this slide, there is NO WAY (ABS?) you could possibly survive.”
    Xavier de la Ru survived one bigger with an ABS a few years ago, though with arguably less trees and rocks around. http://youtu.be/lbrMB_r4Mus

    And I don’t think it was so horrible that someone decided to kick off hangfire above a previous natural slide. I’m not sure if I would have (especially with the warming), but a lot of backcountry users would have done the same. It was wild what ensued and it sucks SAR had to fly out there with our tax/donation $. But in the end this is just another learning experience, thankfully it isn’t anything else.

  17. 17 tony s Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:04 am

    This just like the Saddle Peak debacle at Briger a few years ago. Known persistent weak layer, a huge load that has a couple days to really slab up and then people are surprised that it rips huge with ski tracks on it. Seems like the last few years, with everyone a hero on big skis and the ever increasing competition and lust for powder, people have redefined for themselves what the term “considerable” really means.

    All I can say is that for me personally, it doesn’t mean go “ski cutting” across a big open windloaded face with a huge, settling load on top of a known p.w.l.

    I don’t really care what people do though. I am happy when people get away with it and no one gets hurt. Let nature be the judge, jury, and executioner and let me hopefully be somewhere else to reap the consequences of my own actions. You wouldn’t find me under a face like that on a busy sunny “considerable” day in bro bra ville considering what the snowpack is like this year. Glad everyone is o.k, no hate, just my observation of modern skiers gaming pwl’s. How lucky do you feel this year?

  18. 18 Chief Bro Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Amour the shit talk Jon Wiedie, pleaze. Some comments are better left internal {how naive}.

    Everyone has the right to bear arms and wear long sleeves. When Taylor does rip big I like hearing an experienced skier intentionally started it not some bro bra that boot packed up the ridge for the first time and followed some tracks. I frequently control faces before I ski them, as was he like many we know, and will continue to. Avalanche score = 8.5 (out of 10), more could go. Everybody is glad no one was caught in Coal Creek. Nature is not manslaughter. Think twice before dropping into CC from Glory, Taylor lurks.

  19. 19 Tom Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I think the lesson here isn’t that everything is under control unless someone does something stupid. The lesson is that nomatter what your experience level is, there are variables that are outside of your control, both in terms of snowpack and other users of the mountains. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. I understood this but didn’t actually get it until I got caught in a slide once I had children. That changes your perspective really quick on what “worth it” means.

  20. 20 gringo Jan 25th, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Manslaughter, irresponsibility..blah, blah blah. You can take your shitty American liability culture and shove it!

    this is what we all do, we go in the mountanis and see what we can get away with. And yet some feel the need to demonize a guy who tried to drop a little hang fire…you really think it would be better if this whole face is still sitting up there waiting for someone to get truly smoked by when they see all the old tracks and figure its good to go?

    This is the risk we all take, whether you aknowledge it or not.
    There may or may not be an avalanche when you are out and about on PUBLIC land outside of controlled boundaries.

    And I think we should really all be thankful that we have a capable SAR who had the time and resources to fly out and make sure all is OK. Would it have been better if the ‘concerned turout’ was just a few hippies from the parking lot?

    Why all the negativity? it seems this worked out pretty well considering the alternatives, no? As Steve points out, that whole thing could still be up there waiting with your name on it.

  21. 21 mike fischer Jan 25th, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I find it fascinating how hedonistic powder makes skiers.We just had and are still in the grips of one of the most widespread avalanche cycles in 30 years and Glory bowl gets center punched daily during high rating.When this many are running around the mountains,poor choices will be made.We have a VERY serious snowpack right now,and a ski community with a serious lack of respect.

  22. 22 russell Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:00 am

    ..heavy! it is up to the individual(s) to make the right decisions..that’s another close call..losing a friend in an avi sux..its just skiing

  23. 23 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:34 am

    This massive slide (thanks for the pics) raises some interesting points. I agree with what others have said about how a path that runs into the lower Coal Creek drainage is probably not the wisest place to conduct your own “avalanche hazard reduction”. Especially since many folks coming out of there are likely to have skied the “safe” runs off the west side of Glory because conditions are touchy! Imagine the sad irony there…
    It’s good to be reminded of the power of this path that we’ve probably all skied underneath so many times complacently (I know I have). I don’t think this individual should be vilified for his actions. I don’t believe he acted inappropriately. That’s the nature of skiing in a backcountry venue like the Pass. It’s the skier’s responsibility to be aware of when they’re skiing in runouts and paths. Seems like a lot of people forget this (Tony- in this way, Saddle Peak is an apt analogy).

  24. 24 Jon Wiedie Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Admittedly a hasty choice of words Chief Bro (Bra?). But not naive. We are allowed to speak our minds as we please. I realize this “guru” is not an idiot, but given the current state of our snowpack (very dangerous and highly unpredictable), I find it really hard to justify any sort of appproach such as his, no matter what the experience level. Despite good intentions, seems like an extremely risky method.

    I happen to be on SAR, yesterday we had multiple possible true call outs (this one included), so what if we were in the middle of another mission and transporting someone down Coal Ck. and this happened? Sure, it could have gone on it’s own. But that’s not the point. Food for thought.

    Guess all’s well that ends well, for now.

  25. 25 Tim N Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Have to add my voice to this… Taylor mountain is in a wilderness area – WILDerness.

    “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

    This means the luge next to coal creek is not a user-friendly, controlled, safe-zone where you can just crank your ipod and rail the banks without taking responsibility for your own safety. Its an obvious run-out – that comment above “…taylor lurks” is right on! You think people go “one at a time” across the avi path skiing out to the parking lot? No way. If a skier wants to ski a slope, and they know what they’re doing, they’re going to try to control it beforehand – especially if there’s a terrain trap below. Anything else is irresponsible. If you’re skiing underneath an obvious path that sees traffic, you have to be aware and act accordingly. In other words – take responsibility, don’t count on the “daddy state” to take care of you, especially in a wilderness area.

    For me, I’m not psyched to lose all that snow depth on Taylor but I’m glad the hazard is markedly lower on the se face and in the drainage…

  26. 26 JD72 Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    A LARGE LOSS OF RESPECT for these people who are so quick to point out their years of experience, and unfounded ownership of Taylor calling it their “home hill”, but are reluctant to release their names publicly and take ownership for a selfish action that resulted in close calls for others enjoying the backcountry.

    Memories surge forward of close friends we’ve lost up there over the years in accidents like this.

    Please be careful out there everybody and try to think of others once in a while!

  27. 27 jess Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Wow the people condemning this guy either have insane ego issues, have never done anything wrong themselves(therefore can’t relate), or are just plain ignorant of the risks that backcountry travel and skiing involve. Cage your ego and go out and ski.

  28. 28 MomSkiier Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Given the persistent weak layers in this years pack and the number of avalanches recorded/seen throughout Mail Cabin, Columbia Bowls, etc, I feel this person made a very irresponsible decision. We have all seen Taylor go big in much less tenuous conditions. I don’t care how experienced this group of skiier’s may have been, we all know that frequently a slope does NOT avalanche on the first, second or even third descent. Personally, I am thankful no one was seriously injured/killed. I had a number of friends in the area that day and experienced that deep feeling in the pit of my stomach. Had I learned they had been killed by someone else’s poor decision making, well, my friends are his friends and he would have had to live with the fact that he had killed his friends.

    After living in Coloado for 10 years and now here for 10, I am having flashbacks to shallow, unstable Colorado snowpack. I think people who live in the Tetons are complacent because we are normally blessed with stable, deep snowpack. Not this year…and it may persist throughout the season hidden in corners and pockets.

  29. 29 KB Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Every slope a cocked and loaded weapon,now. Be sure of your target , AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT !!!

  30. 30 one man mariachi Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Thanks for clearing a lurking disaster, good thing no one got killed. I would bet that if someone we’re buried in that slide the person who intentionally set off the slide would be held accountable. I dont necessarily agree with the litigous society that is america however, IF someone intentionally causes harm to another they can be held accountable.

  31. 31 one man mariachi Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:41 am

    OR, no good deed goes unpunished. ouch

  32. 32 Smokey Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    It’s skiing. It’s dangerous. No one died. We should be thankful. The sad part? The internet age where everyone across the country can speak there mind from the comfort of their computer chair. Thats the sad part of this post.

  33. 33 gmon Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    shit, everyone talks about the incident, but noone talks about the numerous tracks diving into the south face. guess in the 8 years i have been away from the area, things have changed. years ago there was less science and knowledge, but apparently more common sense, as you would seldom see such lines in that spot in such conditions. seems like the dynamic has flipped. guess i will blame it on the more powerful dope everyone gets to smoke now.

    and, during my years in the past, on sketchy days, it was always common protocol to quickly cross that gulley run out zone one at a time. i have to imagine at least some people still do that. maybe not?

  34. 34 randosteve Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:05 am

    smokey…i think the internet is good for getting information out to others.

    this kind of thing i’m sure has happened before, but no one saw it because there were less folks around and less ways for people to hear about them.

    on the other hand, more folks out there may cause others to push things more in search of great skiing. which is kind of a double edged sword.

  35. 35 KG Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:18 am

    The only point here is he put other people at risk. Plain and simple. There is nothing else to discuss. If he wanted to kick it off for the safety of other people, hike up there at 1am and do it when no one is around.

    Your enjoying your day, trying to be as safe as possible and some D*ck head thinking he is Joe Pro avi dude kicks off a massive slide burying you and your party. Luckily for him there was no one below him.

    Think a little before you endanger fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or friends. We all fall into at least a few of these categories.

  36. 36 Jason Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:21 am

    How is ski cutting a slope you’re about to ski SO irresponsible? Isn’t the point of ski cutting to test stability and flush anything that will go? Doesn’t everyone ski cut the slopes they ski? Is it the skier’s responsibility to ensure no one is below or is it the uphill skier’s responsibility to chose a safe path of ascent? I’ve ski cut slopes many times without knowing exactly how many parties are between me and the trail head and would guess most of the angry posters on the thread have too. Manslaughter? Come on.

  37. 37 Brady Johston Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Let’s be real:

    Mt. Taylor is in the Wilderness and is not a ski hill. Let the primeval character of the Wilderness and the primitive and unconfined types of recreation prevail!

    I would say, “thank you so much for controlling the South Face of Taylor. You have made the slope much safer for future travelers.” I know later this season with more snow, a larger event was likely and probable inevitable.

    I sure thank the talented technicians of the Wyoming Ski Patrol and the Wyoming Department of Transportation to do this valuable avalanche control work for me.

    So, Thank you to all; for making my morning commute under Glory Bowl possible, my dining experience at the Bridger Center more relaxed, and my next skiing adventure on Taylor Mt. a bit safer.

    (c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, ……….. (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation;………..


  38. 38 Scott Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    For those condemning the actions of this skier, would it be different if he had simply ski cut the line? What if someone had been skiing the line and triggered it, same reaction? Same reaction for those that skied it and nothing happened?

    Anyone caught at the bottom would have been out in the same conditions and standing in a terrain trap. Would you condemn them also?

    Seems like Jackson locals need a little self control and avalanche education, but otherwise dropping some hangfire doesn’t seem abnormal, just the results. You could have had the same results from any number of activities or even just a natural release.

  39. 39 Scott Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:38 am

    One more point. For those saying he put others at risk, you are doing so everytime you go backcountry skiing on any line in any conditions. The only thing that changes is the risk, which as Steve has pointed out cannot be accurately determined (snow science is mostly guesswork). Where are you going to draw the line? Stay home forever?

  40. 40 Cameron Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Although I live in Colorado, I feel the need to chime in here (I’ve skied Taylor a few times, great run). Manslaughter in this case is a slippery-slope to something anathema to the freedom of the hills we all seek in the backcountry. Whether or not the aforementioned skier’s choice was wise or not is up for debate. But what is the difference between getting rid of hang-fire and making a fast ski cut before skiing a run? These techniques are common-sense and responsible in the backcountry. What is not common-sense is exposing yourself to avalanche hazard from above. If someone had been caught, responsibility would have rested on their choices, not the skier above. This is the nature of objective hazard and something which all backcountry users need to be familiar with. Blaming the skier in question is missing the point that others have eloquently made: it’s dangerous out there so be careful and don’t expose yourself to death from above, regardless of what the trigger was.

  41. 41 Jimmy Hartman Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Also having skied Taylor many times I can say I have always jumped on cornices and ski cut every run I have made up there. That’s what you have to do to convince yourself it’s good. This issue is also common at the village. Someone is always above you. It’s up to you to know what’s above you. Don’t go under a lurking avalanche! No one knows what will be the straw that broke the camels back. If a slab is so sensitive that a skier can release it then it was about to go anyway. This is true with the whole drive over the pass. Don’t trust any avy path! And only blame yourself if you get hit from above, You put yourself there.

  42. 42 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I think people need to stop criticizing “Skier X” for risking the lives of unknown others. Not really a legit argument in the context. He has NO responsibility to UNKNOWN parties below him. His primary concern is managing the hazards the he and his party are exposed to.
    It’s the 100% the responsibility of the parties skiing through the runout to manage that hazard appropriately. Not the responsibility of the party thousands of feet above.
    To criticize the skier for managing avy hazard on the slope he and his party were about to ski because of potential “bystanders” below is misguided and, to me, just another example of how many Pass locals seem to downplay the very real hazards of the area.

  43. 43 randosteve Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:58 am

    i find it interesting to see the different opinions seasoned locals have on this incident. i think i am falling somewhere in the middle.

    i also think if the party involved had the option of re-living the moment, he would probably choose not to attempt to release the hang-fire. i’m sure he feels a little bad about what happened as a result of his actions.

    thanks for you comments everyone!


  44. 44 Ben Rubin Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Myself and a friend crossed the debris path at ~4pm, along with numerous others that afternoon. We had chosen a conservative route off glory into the coal creek drainage given the touchy snowpack. If we had been on the runout at the right time…

    I have mixed feelings about this incident.

    The whole is a wilderness area, avy danger was considerable, and we traversed an obvious runout zone. Taylor certainly could have triggered naturally on the same day. Simply by being in avalanche terrain in those conditions we ran a risk. I accept that risk.

    On the positive side – this event reinforced to me to practice safe travel techniques (one at a time, in sight of your partner) anywhere in avalanche terrain – no letting the guard down on flats that cross slide paths.

    Now for the negative. I’m relatively new to the backcountry compared to most readers of this blog. I’ve been itching to set off slides in a controlled fashion to learn more about snow stability. Would love to drop a cornice on a suspect slope, ski cut something sketchy on a belay, etc. as a learning experience. I haven’t. Because until I am absolutely SURE no one is in the run-out path I don’t want to kill or injure someone. And in many places in the pass – especially in these conditions – it would be tough to be sure that no one was in a potential maximal run-out. I take the same approach to skiing a slope. Could my actions take out not just myself and my partners – but people down below who didn’t share in my decision? If so – I’ll be much more cautious.

    The skier who intentionally triggered this slide (and anyone skiing Taylor previously) was taking a risk not just personally but for anyone in the very popular run-out path below. This doesn’t seem to transmit an attitude of respect and responsibility for how personal actions impact others.

    So to summarize – I agree with the statement above that ‘It’s the skier’s responsibility to be aware of when they’re skiing in runouts and paths.’ and I’d add – ‘It’s the skier’s responsibility to be aware of when they’re skiing or controlling a slope where a slide could endanger others in the runouts or path.’

  45. 45 doucher Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    who was it?

  46. 46 Matt Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:11 am

    The thought of ski cutting to mitigate hazard on a slope with a persistent weak layer causing a deep slab instability is somewhat laughable.

    Cameron, I agree with you, that’s probably why I go skiing with you.

  47. 47 gmon Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    it was marvin howard

  48. 48 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Ben, I think you allude to one of the major ironies of this whole situation. Tons of people like yourself ski mellow runs off the west side of Glory on days even touchier than yesterday (I certainly have). But the mellow trees don’t eliminate having to cross the giant runout zone (and it’s not the only one depending on what you ski). Perhaps time for some to reassess the objective safety of these runs?
    Again, I think this incident shows a complacency in a lot of skiers. Super glad nobody was hurt.

  49. 49 randosteve Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:24 am

    No gmon…but a good one. :)

  50. 50 doyleds Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:30 am

    well played GMAN!!!!!!!

  51. 51 Tim N Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I heard it was Ron Paul who triggered that slide.

    Seriously, blaming a skier for ski cutting a slope before skiing it is ridiculous. Placing the blame on someone else if you are hanging out in an avi path without regard for time of day or the possibility of other recreationalists above you is also ridiculous. Don’t take that attitude to the alps, they’ll laugh you right back to Denver Airport.

  52. 52 brents Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Do you expect him to not ski cut it before venturing onto that line?

  53. 53 Derek Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Another high drama Teton AT post.

    I don’t care who started the slide. I’m sure they had no ill or immature intent. It was a simple act that got a little out of control.

    Chalk it up to a learning experience, not a lynching.

  54. 54 RJS Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:52 am

    There is a lot of focus on the person that triggered the slide. In reality, all of the skiers who laid tracks down Taylor before the slide are equally responsible.

    I get ANGRY when I see folks in the backcountry with a cavalier “what I do is none of your business” attitude. Skiing Glory Bowl, in my book, is basically never okay mid-winter. The consequences are too high if something does slide (innocent drivers dying, political ramifications). Skiing the face of Taylor is even more idiotic. I would venture to call it suicidal this year. Who do these people think they are? Above the laws of physics?

    Just because you get away with it 99% of the time doesn’t mean that you’re practicing safe travel in avalanche terrain.

    I think it’s our responsibility to address cavalier skiing on Teton Pass with peer pressure as much as possible. When I see unsafe behavior up close and personal, you can bet that I’ll call you out. And I hope that everyone else does too.

    Everyone who likes to make believe the Teton Pass is wilderness is crazy. It’s Teton Pass. Be real about it. Decisions that YOU make on Teton Pass do affect everyone else in this community. We’re not just talking about a right for an individual to take risks. We’re talking about a very popular backcountry skiing AREA with thousands of skiers affected by every individual decision.

    Wasn’t there a poster last year that said something like “Don’t Be The One Who Ruins It For The Many”? I’m so sick of arrogance in this town…

  55. 55 BNK Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    The unreasonable acts of others is listed as a hazard on the signs at our access gates here in Colorado. Deal with it.

  56. 56 Jason Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I’m glad that cornice was cut and the slope went and none got hurt. He might have saved a few folks lives. That’s some pretty heavy looking blocked up snow in the run out.

  57. 57 Ripple Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    To all who seem to think that “controlling” the slope for the rest of us was a good idea (Brady),with all due respect, you’re as wrong as anyone could be. And you ought to be embarrassed for stating so, publicly.

    People are warned and highways closed for real control efforts. This was cowboy control. Plain as day.

    Here’s why:

    1. Parking lots at the top and bottom were full since sunrise. People were skiing out of Coal Creek every 3 to 5 minutes. No effort was made to warn anyone.

    2. Advisory said, among other things, “People or sun will easily start sloughs in the new five to eight inches of snow. The sloughs could trigger the deeper slabs and result in large, dangerous avalanches.” (Not that it takes a 20-year veteran of skiing the pass to know this. Right? Basic Level 1)

    3. It was the first warm day following a week of heavy snow. It was peak heat of the day (I was standing in the coal creek parking lot at 1:30). Said expert was setting up to ski an exposed line at a questionable time of day under questionable conditions.

    4. Whether or not it’s designated wilderness is irrelevant in this case. It’s a trade route above a parking lot right off the highway. If I am skiing the south face, then it’s my own fault. If, after making appropriate decisions for the conditions, I get buried by someone who wasn’t making good decisions, it’s his fault (even though I assumed the risk by being out for the day).

    5. Because someone considers Taylor his personal hill doesn’t justify the danger he puts others in. Cutting a slope with people below you is poor style, always. There were people below.

    Think about what you’re saying: that everyone had better look out for me because I’ve got an agenda. And because I’m more of a local than you, it’s my right to act however I want.

    Imagine someone trying to explain that to your family. Your logic isn’t working and I’ll now have to spend the rest of my season avoiding you.

    On another note, someone please show me some evidence that the south face wouldn’t have settled and stabilized over time. Not your opinion, mind you, but some actual data. Anyone?

    Finally, his quotes to the daily were unfortunate. It shows a serious lack of empathy. I won’t mind telling him so when I see him.

  58. 58 Wooodbury Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Steve, what’s your opinion of SAR members participation in public forums such as this?

  59. 59 js Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Greg Collins triggered the slide. There, I said it. As a journalist. He has guided in the Tetons and Alaska. Mistakes happen, even to the most experienced. When you trigger a major slide that involves a rescue callout and occurs before a bunch of witnesses, you are in the public eye.

  60. 60 gringo Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:55 am

    2x what Tim said.
    some of you would need a serious attitude change before skiing in Europe….

  61. 61 gringo Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Ripple don’t get all holier than thou. your post actually negates the point you are trying to make.

    note first word in your advisory quote below…

    2. Advisory said, among other things, “People or sun will easily start sloughs in the new five to eight inches of snow. The sloughs could trigger the deeper slabs and result in large, dangerous avalanches.”

    yep, that means watch out.

  62. 62 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Hey JS- how about publishing your own name after naming GC? Seriously lame move on your part, methinks, “as a journalist”.

    Ripple, you sound crazed! You treat those skiing through Coal Cr that day as if they were innocent bystanders, like those motoring b/w WY and ID on the highway. They’re not- they made the choice to ski amidst the dragons. Whether or not they understood the full consequences of their decisions is a different issue.

    Hope this causes some of you who consider Big Piney and others in the zone your go-to run on sketch days to rethink that position, or at least put a little more pep in your step when crossing the runout(s)!

  63. 63 MTPowPig Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    The Year of the Dragon is upon us!

  64. 64 js Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Not as lame as you think. Click “js” and you’ll go straight to my website. Not hiding anything, just signed up on this blog using my commenter initials a long time ago. No disrespect to Greg (we have mutual friends), but when an incident like this happens, you are in the public eye. Ask Stephen Koch.

  65. 65 tony s Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    “The thought of ski cutting to mitigate hazard on a slope with a persistent weak layer causing a deep slab instability is somewhat laughable.”

    Nailed it.

    I am shocked at what you Jackson Heros consider appropriate terrain and snowpack conditions for a ski cut. Sure the guy made a mistake, I don’t care who he is nor do I want to villify him, but if you think this is smart mitigation protocol with terrain and conditions like that, well then good luck to ya. Y’all really are Gods. Now I am fully prepared to witness your grandeur next time I make a trip down there. Am I worthy?

  66. 66 Ripple Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:43 pm


    Holier than thou? I’m sorry but I don’t see that in my post. Care to respond to the argument I made?

    Again, I feel sorry for Teton skiers if you (gringo) are making the case that yours or anyone else’s agenda means that I’ll have folks cutting big slopes above me. And, as I said, I will now be watching out for not only avy conditions, but folks like yourself who think your daily jollies justify taking someone out.


    Crazed? Seems to me that I made a well-reasoned argument. And if you’d read my post a little slower, I don’t make any such assertion that folks skiing in coal creek are innocent bystanders. Look again at points 4 and 5.

    “Ski amidst the dragons” poetry aside, when control work is happening, areas are usually closed. Tell me what’s happening and I’ll avoid it. You seem to be making the case, as I said before, that your agenda is what matters most. Everyone else had better watch out for splitski ‘cuz he’s coming through.

  67. 67 D Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I think this case below shows that no criminal charges would stick if they were filled. It may not be the same thing, but similar in many ways.

    The real question here is was it caught on a GoPro?


  68. 68 wasatch surf Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    The snowpack sucks this year. In the wasatch there are 2-3 ft avy crowns in 30 degree trees. Across the west there are numerous reports of very touchy avalanche conditions. If you live in the intermountain west the snow pack is scary. Taylor is a serious place, I don’t understand why you would be in any of it’s run outs given the current conditions? Nevertheless this is an issue that I think we will see more and more of. Especially in places like the Pass and the central wasatch. Everyone has a gopro, a blog, dynafits, a super steezy 3L goretex shell, and an attitude of having to “shred” or “own” the mountain. We all act like backcountry skiing is some special thing that only “we” can do, but really any cretin that has access to a backcountry.com brocode can do it. The pass and the wasatch a great place to study what not to do on a tour. The areas are highly crowded with people skiing on top of you, dropping cornices, skinning up below, skiing major slide paths above highways etc… it’s all part of the game now. That being said we are in control of our own choices. Yes skier X didn’t have to drop a cornice but he did, big fucking deal. You have the choice not to be in the run out of one of the larger avalanche paths in that area. Be ready to accept the consequence of either action.

  69. 69 mike fischer Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Yo bloggers;Lets all settle down a little.Part of the reason we enjoy the mountains IS the risk, accept it. I don’t care how experienced you are we all make mistakes,in theory we all learn from them.Yes this could have been tragic.We all see many make poor choices daily near the village.teton pass is in effect an urban backcounty ski area,lets stop blaming,educate each other and be respectful.

  70. 70 Dick in the Dark Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Pretty big armchair jury out there. My armchair was across the road in the Do It’s, from where we witnessed this massive slide. Before the slide, sun-exposed slopes had been warming and we were musing that Taylor could easily go naturally. We also commented on how the first sunny day after big dumps can be a killer: Laurel Dana on Taylor, Ray Azar on the Pyramid….Then the slide!

    Several comments:

    The only ski cut track visible in the posted photo is far lookers-left and that was made hours earlier (same skier on his first lap is one story going around) before the afternoon warm-up. I can see no other signs of a “conservative” entry point or ski cut to test the slope. Since when do these “experienced” avie gurus/experts test slopes ten turns into the fall-line and deep in the pocket? Or was he roped up skiing on belay?

    No one has yet commented on all the brave rescue personnel who exposed themselves to danger while searching the gut of the slide path. The still-warming S and SW slopes that hadn’t slid as well as the ten turns of hang-fire above the crown was still on the slopes above them. If this guy meant to set off this slide, then why wasn’t he there to help with the search until the bitter end? Does his mommy still wash his dirty underwear? Shameful!

    Friends in the Coal Creek parking lot during the post-slide cluster were amazed at the attitude of the other avie gurus who had been up on Taylor during the incident and who were now downplaying it as a controlled event. This was an accident plain and simple; even if it was intentionally triggered, it got out of control. The skier responsible has removed his late-day facebook posts and has scurried into hiding.

    Who gives a hoot how many times this guy has skied Taylor? Familiarity breeds complacency and false confidence. As Mike Fischer points out, there is a serious lack of respect for the mountains these days. Perhaps there is also lack of respect for the sacrifices and hard work of Teton County SAR.

    I realize that the terms “responsible” and “controlled” are very subjective, risk assesment is also very subjective, some people have common sense and some don’t, and not everyone believes in personal accountability. This is what one is up against these days in the mountains. Be safe and watch out for the other guy.

  71. 71 Stumper Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    This is a great and revealing quote: “….highly experienced local avalanche guru….” What does it say about the rest of us here in Teton County?

  72. 72 David Stubbs Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    There is a positive side to this incident and blogalanche:
    Folks who have grown complacent skiing Coal Creek as an “always safe” option may now rethink their decision to ski under Taylor’s slide path. Could save a life down the line. Really disappointed in the decision of our local paper to withhold the skier’s name . . . Weak journalism. This was a very public news event that included a SAR heli flight. Come on N&G. (you too Steve).

  73. 73 gringo Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    This might even top the ‘two booters up Glory incident’ a few years back…

    not to mention lots of folks here today misusing snow science jargon in an attempt to sound the expert.

    very entertaining!

  74. 74 Dick in the Dark Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Reading so much about ski cuts, and seeing no ski cut on the slope, I assumed (try never to make these!)he was skiing the slope when it went. Re-reading the first post by RandoSteve, he never mentions a ski cut. Might it have been a cornice stomp from the “safety” of the south ridge?

  75. 75 joseph.szasz Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    the euros have it right on this one. dont be lollygagin in runout zones. the mountains are a dangerous place. if my not getting killed depends on strangers/others not ever making mistakes ive allready screwed up! great post steve. keep up the great work and stay safe.

  76. 76 luke Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    To me it is simple:

    The skier that ski cut the slope should have expected to cause a slide due to the day’s heating (avy 101). And apparently he caused the slide “intentionally”.

    The skier knew the slide path runs across a track where fellow skiers should also be expected.

    The guy probably made an honest mistake.

    Let’s take the lesson for what it is and watch out for each other in the future.

  77. 77 adam Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    carefull everybody. Darwins in town……..

  78. 78 kevininidaho Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    if this event does any good it will hopefully stand as a learning tool for others-even the ‘pros’ fuck up.Be careful and choose smart routes.

  79. 79 Fresh Tracks Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Why does being an experienced guide absolve someone of personal responsibility and good judgement?

    Is someone more entitled to be up there when all signs show there’s a high risk and likelihood of a serious event just because you’ve got experience/training?

    And the biggest question the Jackson ski commmunity should be asking itself is:

    “Why do so many feel the need to push the envelope (and yes, this was pushing the envelope on this particular day, no matter how many times you’ve skied this face) when all signs point towards high danger and you KNOW there’s a chance you’re putting other skiers/SAR at risk?”

    I’ve seen this movie and written this story too many times. Someone got lucky and got away with it. It doesn’t always end this well.

  80. 80 CB Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Anyone that skies terrain like this and doesn’t ski cut, drop cornice or get rid of hang fire is an idiot. Maybe it should not have been skied that late on a sunny day but if it is you should do whatever you can do to make it safer for your group to ski. If you can’t accept the risk of maybe being buried in a slide you should not ski out cold creek. Anytime you ski in a run out zone it’s a risk no matter what the snowpack is like. I ski Taylor multiple times a week and there is always people hanging out in cold creek smoking up talking whatever and I tell them not to hangout in hear and they look at me like why not?? The best lesson from this is for the people that ski out cold creek, do as I do ski down and get the F Out of the run out zone.

  81. 81 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Ripple: I guess you’re partially right when you say “my agenda matters most”. Simply stated, unseen parties below are not my primary safety concern when skiing a line with my party. My own safety and the safety of those in my party will always be my primary concern. If it isn’t yours, you should rethink the way you operate in the backcountry.
    G was probably doing his best to safely ski the line with his party, which I believe should be every backcountry skier’s primary obligation. I assume that other parties have similar approaches, which is one of the many reasons I don’t linger in runout zones or ski slopes when there’s a shitshow happening above me.
    Like someone said earlier, “death from above” is possible at many points on all tours that bring you into avalanche terrain, and any party is free to use whatever reasonable means they can to mitigate that hazard: ski cutting, cornice dropping, jumping around while on belay, etc….
    Point is, I don’t think his behavior was out of line at all, though G certainly made some decisions I wouldn’t have that day (being on the S side of Taylor first and foremost). That the line in question is a “trade route” as you say or that G considers it his “personal ski hill” (I doubt he would ever say that) bear very little into this situation in my opinion. To think of the line as anything less than a giant avy path fosters the complacency that we see down there on a daily basis. Seems like G triggered a big wake-up call along with the massive slide.

  82. 82 SimB Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    To me it’s not a question of weather the slide was intentional or unintentional but what they were skiing and when they were doing it, anyone could have foreseen the outcome of skiing or making a ski cut on that face a day like yesterday.

    I agree that the safety of ones group is the number one priority when skiing the backcountry but does that mean that you don’t have any responsibility towards others that are out there? I don’t think so and since what he did could have had very serious consequences for others he should have thought twice about it.

    The people skiing out of coal creek are taking a risk to of course and need to accept it but when it comes to something this foolish I don’t think it’s fair to imply that “They had it coming” like some of you are doing.

  83. 83 Ripple Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:59 pm


    Thanks for your comments.

    He was quoted as saying: “It’s tough because I consider this my home hill.” I’ll allow that I don’t know exactly what he had in mind when he made that comment. However, in the context of what else he was saying, it struck me as an attempt to justify what he had done.

    Nowhere have I said (or implied) that people below don’t have a responsibility to make good travel decisions. That includes “lingering” in any sort of terrain trap.

    2 points:

    1. Just because your immediate group is your primary concern, and because everyone should be watching out for themselves, doesn’t automatically absolve you from all responsibility to those below you. If this is what you’re saying, you should rethink the way YOU operate in the backcountry.

    When you ask the question, “What are the consequences if this bowl does rip?”, hopefully, somewhere in your mind, you’ll get to the possibility that someone not in your group might be impacted. Especially in this particular case.

    2. You don’t think his behavior was out of line at all? If that was true, this would be just another quiet day on TetonAT.

  84. 84 Dax Kelm Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Learning experience. Stay safe. Have fun. Live long.

  85. 85 Cynic Al Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    One very positive result is the term “Blogalanche” Sheer genius!

  86. 86 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Ripple-I’m sick of replying to this thread (and repeating myself), but don’t put words in my mouth. I never said anyone should be absolved from responsibility to those below. Just saying that hopefully those below have enough sense of terrain management to know they shouldn’t be in a big runout zone like that for very long, and if they are, they know the risk they’re accepting. Again, it gets back to knowing the objective hazards and parties above you is certainly one of them in the Tetons (and many other places).
    I will stick to my guns and say that his behavior was acceptable (though it’s not how I would’ve acted).
    I also have not read the article in question (raised in Jackson local but schooling in Bozeman, so don’t have access to the print media).

  87. 87 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Blogalanche is sick. Question: What is bigger: The debris pile in Coal Creek or the one on this website?

  88. 88 Smokey Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Agree with Mtsplitski. Turn the comments off on this one. Not much constructive conversation left here…

  89. 89 Omr Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Sounds like a witch hunt. If he’d set it off while making turns would it just be bad luck? To me it’s all the same. Don’t blame the trigger if you’re skinning in a run-out zone, even if historically safe. This is a hyper-weird year for slides. Don’t take anything casually.

  90. 90 Mike Bannister Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Wow, this is reminding me why I stopped reading internet forums.

    If you don’t want to get whacked:

    1. Don’t ski under other skiers
    2. Don’t ski under avalanche paths
    3. Sure as hell don’t ski under other skiers in major avalanche paths. Don’t know if anyone is up there? Then you should probably assume people are up there and get the hell out of the avy path.

    Maybe the guy made a mistake. But I can count about 10 tracks from that pic and those 10 basically made the same mistake and got luckier than the skier in question. Sure he was the one that made it go, but from the sounds of things it was only a matter of time before a tree-bomb, or animal, or cornice fall, or couple more snowflakes (wind) or a little more solar radiation kicked it off. Leave the guy alone. If you don’t like the idea of someone else’s actions killing you then stay out of the run out.

  91. 91 Ripple Jan 25th, 2012 at 5:01 pm


    I’m glad I can help you with your argumentative logic. But you’re arguing issues that you yourself seem unable to identify and/or accept.

    The fact that it is a trade route has everything to do with this. If he cut a massive slope in a remote setting, this wouldn’t be an issue, now, would it? I was in the parking lot at 1:30 (lingering,if you must know)and I know at least some of the people involved and some of the events leading up to this situation.

    Again, of all the issues raised, whether or not his behavior was acceptable seems to me the main question.

    You’re entitled to your opinion and I appreciate your energy here. As you said: “any party is free to use whatever reasonable means they can to mitigate that hazard”.

    Focus on the word “reasonable” and ask yourself: was it reasonable in this case? I think not.

  92. 92 Wooodbury Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Ron Paul does have some interesting things to say but I’m sticking with Obama.

  93. 93 Suz Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Wow. I’m the 92nd post. This has caused quite the stir. My beef with GC is that he wanted to remain annonymous. Being humble and taking responsibility for one’s actions is the right thing to do. I’ve learned over the years that coming clean with mistakes I have made takes way less energy than trying to cover them up. I have to wonder, would the ski community respond the same way had he immediately claimed responsibility? If this was part of the “Game of G.N.A.R.,” I think he would score positive points for taking responsibility (CLAIM) for his actions. That would maybe bring his point balance to zero after earning mega negative points for his choice of line/time of day/etc. Thanks to TCSAR for surveying the scene. We are so blessed to have you guys in this area.

  94. 94 KR Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I am pleased that this post has revealed so many people with the, “if you were in the way, you had it coming!” mindset. I will definitely bake that into my backcountry trip planning the next time I’m in town. Usually I only take into consideration the potential for other parties to cause me harm purely by accident but with absence of malice. Now I also need to assume at least some percentage of you are just fine and dandy with killing me.

  95. 95 Dick in the Dark Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    “Blogalanche” and “Urban Backcountry Ski Resort”! Some good stuff here to add to the lexicon. Thanks for the forum, Steve. It’s educational to see all the points of view. One can’t control what the other guy does, so knowing how the other guy thinks should be part of how one evaluates avie terrain and conditions.

  96. 96 Mark Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    “Remember the avalanche does not know you are an expert.”
    -Andre Roch, retired Swiss avalanche scientist

  97. 97 beverly boynton Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    it really is a good conversation, and worth thinking through most all (not all) of the comments. many ways of thinking i hadn’t really thought of. but, at day’s end, i think in a popular place, one does have to think how one’s actions affect others, esp when the snowpack is known to be so dangerous, and the time of day is less than ideal. in the very least, it is never wrong to think about how your actions impact others. it is also never wrong to take precautions when skiing under a known slide path.

  98. 98 FP Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I am with Ripple…irresponsible cowboy s#$t. That was not Professional Guru behavior.

  99. 99 Bob Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Its all been said above. And sorry, I ran out of steam and did not read it all. And I don’t know anyone involved in this, but I have skied Taylor on a trip up there (not that that matters).

    Anyway the noise above seems a bit ridiculous to me. I don’t see how the action of the person who hit the sweet spot is any different than those who skied the face before him. ANY of them could have set this slide off, killing themselves and those below them. And we’re just lucky they didn’t. So why is this person to be looked at any different than them. Let start a lynch mob and find all their names for public humiliation. Really people, it is no different. If you think it is, then you have way more faith in your ave skills then I do (or more likely don’t really understand the dragon). As for those that skied a safer line and were below, they needed to take the danger of this slope into account (i.e., one at a time and move fast below it). Just normal protocol.

    The world is getting funny, and not in a good way.

  100. 100 Holly Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    JS, I think your handle is perfect – journalism smernalism. Hope naming the guy on another person’s forum makes you feel the man. But of course you were only doing it out of journalistic duty, right.

  101. 101 Mike S Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    The reason that this post is going into the three digits is because it’s a really important topic. It’s interesting, as someone who lives in and skis a continental snowpack, to read the range of responses. I think that it will ultimately help everyone to learn from the close call.
    Ski cutting is in no way/shape/form the appropriate technique to deal with known deep slab instability. It’s used when surface instability is the known issue, period. Otherwise, you’re rolling the dice. If you don’t have explosives to deal w/PWL, then you have to choose terrain more conservatively. Personally, I find it crazy that folks are out there skiing that line right now with your snowpack. But that’s just me and you are entitled to do what you want.
    Several weeks ago, I had a friend who was killed in an avalanche that was triggered above by another party who had chosen a riskier line. He thought he was in a safe zone, but wasn’t.
    So it got me thinking on this specific topic. A week later, I was out touring in high hazard with shooting cracks, remote triggers, etc. We had a mellow line to descend, but along the way came upon a known test slope that we planned to intentionally trigger. After discussion, we decided not to, because we weren’t sure that the slope was cleared below. I believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to consider other folks out there, not just those below. The immediate Teton Pass zone, despite its wilderness designation, is a high use area and demands this approach.
    Without trying to sound self righteous, be careful out there. From an outsider’s perspective, that photo above speaks of many risks being taken on a dicey snowpack. It’s just skiin.

  102. 102 one man mariachi Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    wow, I thought professional ski guides would take action to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level. The facts are clear, considerable rising to high avy danger and I’m just gonna see if I can get this hang fire out of here. Take into account the methodology of the actions of the individual who initiated the slide.

  103. 103 FP Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Mike S is right on. Ski cut are not for Hard Slabs…Can we really call a D3 avalanche hang fire?

  104. 104 randosteve Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    some blogger-dork facts…i’m pretty sure the only other posts that have produced over 100 comments were the koch snowmobile post and a contest i held to give away some la sportivas. here are the links…


    a few other posts have reached 80+ comments and it’s kinda weird what gets folks to comment. here are those links…


    i think what sets this taylor avalanche post apart is the speed at which it has gotten to 100…which is less than 24 hours.

    i’m not really into turning off the comments. to a point, i like to hear the different opinions. to a backcountry skier, this is a very interesting and important discussion. when is it, or when is it not, okay to ski-cut/ski hazardous terrain/trigger avalanches when in the backcountry.

  105. 105 randosteve Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    i was told by greg that is was a soft slab…not a hard slab.

  106. 106 Dick in the Dark Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Just some more comments for clarification from an observer of the event. Before the slide, there were a total of 3 tracks down Taylor’s SE face, all from early in the day, before noon. Two were close together, skiing next to a band of trees, for psychological security i suppose. The other, solo track was out in the gut after a quick ski cut with several ski checks to add more pressure to the slope and then a bold drop into the middle of the bowl. The skier who caused the slide was seen in the parking lot early morning and reportedly did a second lap. Just before the slide, I noted only the 3 said tracks, plus one on the east ridge. As I watched the slide happen, I noted only one more track, directly into the fracture. Was this our guy again, or was he really doing avie control on the ridge? NO second ski cut that so many bloggers refer to. All the other tracks up there that you see in the photos were laid down after the slide. Adam is right on: Darwin is in Town!

  107. 107 FP Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    6 ft SS deep instability hmmm.

  108. 108 FP Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I trust the BTNF more on avalanche classification than GC.

  109. 109 mtsplitski Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    If we all survive this blogalanche it will be a miracle.
    Ripple, sorry you disagree with what I said, but I think my logic is sound. My thoughts boil down (as do many things in the mountains) to acceptable risk. There are people like Gdub out there (Jackson probably has a disproportionate amount), and if this thread raises awareness that behavior like that takes place, then that’s a wonderful benefit.
    I still don’t see how the OUTCOME of Greg’s behavior is any different than if someone had skied and hit the sweet spot. Still a potential risk that one should be thinking about any time they ski out Coal Creek.
    I’m not out there to push avys onto unsuspecting parties below as some have suggested. But I am OK knowing that some individuals/parties do operate that way, which for me is just another reason to cross paths and runouts as fast as I safely can.
    Many of you are acting like this is new behavior. I bet this whole situation has played out many times over the years with “no slab results” as Greg likes to say.
    Thanks, Steve, for playing host to yet another armchair discussion. Next time all you skiers think about hitting up Big Piney or the Aspens on a sketchy day, maybe this situation will enter into your risk calculus.

  110. 110 JLCR Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Are you making a donation of time or money to SAR – http://www.tetoncountysar.org/ – or the AVI forcast – http://www.jhavalanche.org/afso ?


    If you’re triggering slides, you should be.

    You put their lives at risk when you put yours at risk.

  111. 111 AJ Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    In my opinion, this is definitely classified as Radtarded…

  112. 112 JLCR Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    “The search for Walker Kuhl of Salt Lake City and Gregory Seftick of Columbia Falls, Mont., cost $119,000. The search for the two men, who were killed by an avalanche in Garnet Canyon, took several days, involved a large number of searchers and helicopters as well as avalanche dogs.”

    It may be your right to trigger, it may be your right to die, it may be your right to have some fun, but we all pay for your ‘rights’.


  113. 113 GW Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Myself and others are adopting the surfers mentality to skiing this year. If you ski on top of us we will chase you down. We will catch you because we are faster. Then we are going to take your sponsors pretty goggles and hold you up by your neon neck warmer while we blacken your eyes. Meanwhile someone else will be kicking your bindings off your skis and you will be left to walk down from a place you neither know nor should have ever been. DON’T SKI ON TOP OF OTHER GROUPS!!!!!

    Sincerely and seriously,

  114. 114 js Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Someone get me a blogalung.
    It’s just the plain fact of the matter, Holly. And not exactly a secret around Jackson. I wish Greg no ill will.

  115. 115 Meta Peace Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    GW might be on to something. If this skier had been a newbie, out-of-towner, sporting Fritschis, and double go pros ( front/rear) he’d have received a whooping from all you lokes– north shore style. But no, he’s a local semi-pro (non exum) guide, so some of you all are condoning his actions. Good thing for those of you realizing the severity of his choice(s). Damn 3.5-4, big. JHole check your double-standards.

  116. 116 TOBY G Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Wow, interesting stuff. Actually great to see the passion in this discussion. I have long felt that Jackson is an ironically dangerous backcountry ski destination because of the ridiculously easy access to real mountain situations. Sure many places like Colorado or the Canadian Rockies have more dangerous snowpacks, but more often than not they are difficult enough to access to keep the jibbing groms out of harms way. How many times have we all seen (or reprimanded) the all too typical tour-on slogging up Glory in alpine boots with their 12 year old kid and no packs? Are we all responsible for these idiots? Unfortunately to some degree we are…ever more so if we profess to be the “gurus”.

    It’s true that we should all be responsible for ourselves, and I absolutely despise the American system of liability. I hate that this conversation even went in that direction, and it just reflects how deeply that crap is ingrained in our culture…nobody is responsible for themselves in America and if you hurt me I’ll sue your mom. When I speak of responsibility it is not in this sense.

    GC… gotta love the never ending drive in the guy. For all the times I’ve seen him stomping around alone in the starting zone of Tuck’s or Taylor on serious snowpacks, I’ve never been able to decide if he’s more wizard or wild man. I am sure that he has put in more deliberate time geeking out with snowpacks than most of us here, but the fact remains that it is always a calculated risk. Does it really make sense to ski cut a serious face with deep PSW? Does it really make sense to place the 10th copperhead, or to paddle that creek? Clearly no in the calculated, legal sense that some people are arguing here, but it is what brings many of here to this life.

    However, he absolutely did have a responsibility to consider the people below him who would likely be touring one of the most popular exits on the pass. Shit, I love to cut the cornices on Taylor like a little kid loves blowing up GI Joes. Would I do it in the middle of the day, knowing that there was a full parking lot of skiers somewhere below me? Obviously, absolutely not! Would he try to justify trundling rocks from the top of RSB without knowing if anyone was at the base? I’d like to hear that argument.

    Honestly there is only one reason that really inspires me to chime in on this debate, and it reflects back to an accident on the South Teton that took the life of one of our local skiers two years ago. It makes me really angry to remember how the guru in question publicly reprimanded one of Rey’s extremely experienced partners, in the midst of his own personal battle at the memorial for a lost friend! We could be at a memorial for friends that were touring in Coal Creek that day. I think some of us “gurus” need to climb off the high horse, and realize that no matter how expert we are, we aren’t in total control.

  117. 117 Gerard Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Death from above

  118. 118 Jim S Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Watch out for each other, not just ourselves and our friends.
    Eveybody makes mistakes, and mistakes can kill.
    Can we go back to AT vs telemark?

  119. 119 mike fischer Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:53 am

    This is too big of an audience not to bring up the BIG issue here.Lets say this event took place on a path that impacted highway 22. this would set off a chain of events that would rock the ski community to the core.The closure of Teton pass to skiers. think it coulden’t happen,think again.WYDOT has put up with a lot of bad behavior up there.Do the gas X exploders make it fair game to center punch glory on a high hazard day?Also it would be naive to think if a skier killed a car load of people that you would not be drug through the legal system.We do not have a right to do anything we want up there,the highway is not a ski lift.If we as a community do not get our act together we will look up at the pass and say,remember when we used to be able to ski up there!

  120. 120 Pete Hardman Jan 26th, 2012 at 7:05 am

    A) This was ready to slide – with or without a skier on top.

    B) Anyone in the line of fire wasn’t safe – with or without the skier.

    C) If backcountry users expect to be protected from the mistakes – or normal actions – of others, you need to reassess your understanding of backcountry dangers.

    D) There are community standards that need to be respected. While triggering a slide onto skiers in Garnet Canyon is unfortunate, those buried skiers should have no expectation of safety. Triggering a slide onto Highway 22 will get you in the dog house even if the slide could have gone at any time.

    F) The cost associated with people playing in harms way is not trivial and it’s often paid for by people who aren’t playing in harms way. Those people don’t always appreciate your ‘reckless’ decisions.

  121. 121 G Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    FYI BTNF gave whydot a permit to create and maintain hwy 22 (the highway runs in / on / along National Forest lands). More apt would be when BTNF pulls WYDOT’s permit to manage / maintain the roadway.

  122. 122 gillesleskieur Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:23 am

    wow what a fuss, I think most of you should come over to Europe to relax and step away from the “US Lawyers attitude”… mountains are dangerous, especially if u put people up them. Thats just the way it is, no need to search for someone to blame. Mind your own business, travel safe. That includes looking above you at any potential menace..

  123. 123 D Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Yeah bro we will blacken your eye, unless of course you are a “local Avi guru”. I think said skier should have brought his 300 Win Mag and 5 lb canister of Tannerite to control the slope. Now that is some real cowboy shit Avi control. Don’t forget the GoPro.

    On a serious note anyone with a conscience should take others (their party and others) well being into account when making decisions in the backcountry. I would hope he would make a different decision if given the chance.

  124. 124 Jim Olson Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Let’s see Greg,
    You read GVD the riot act just minutes after Laurel died in an avalanche on the east face (as if he didn’t already feel bad enough), you criticized Nate Brown after the deadly avalanche his party was involved in on the South Teton, and now, you, the “avalanche guru” cheats death by skiing the line multiple times (at least once) before whipping soma that guru shit on the south face, and getting a result that would have killed YOU had you been in it. It’s just that you were lucky.
    Are you a hypocrite?
    Do you feel lucky?
    Are you humbled?
    Will you use kinder word towards others next time?
    Or by hiding do you hope to be above any criticism?
    Let’s see.
    Avalanche Guru’s actions were intentional and scientific, but don’t have your name printed for God’s sake!
    You must be real proud of your Guru credentials!!!!!!

  125. 125 LynB Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Thanks to you all for participating in this conversation. Am a moderate backcountry skier, have learned a huge amount for reading these comments and really appreciate the thought and energy that has gone into the responses.

  126. 126 zephyr Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Many points of view well spoken here, and dialogue is always an excellent way to arrive at a deeper understanding. I don’t have the hubris to imagine I can add anything new on the central controversy, but I would like to raise the specter of the voiceless. It’s an interesting question of whether intentionally triggered slides would have gone off naturally–maybe something we can never know. Either way, I wonder about the creatures beneath the snowpack. Lucky that humans and possibly dogs weren’t killed or injured. But maybe quite a number of pikas and other small creatures were. Do they count for anything? I think I’d rather leave it to Mother Nature to pull that trigger… But I’m not a snow hero, I’m just a recreationist. (BTW, a recreationist who finds it a little ironic that anyone posting several comments would call for closing the comments. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.)

  127. 127 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:33 am

    GC risked his own life by making that ski cut and releasing an avalanche which may have later caught and killed a less experienced skier. He should be given a medal of appreciation for it.

    I’ve had numerous occasions where I’ve broken trail up a narrow couloir, only to look back and see one or more groups following our skin track way below. What are you supposed to do then? Wait hours for all of them to catch up to you? Graciously ski some other line and leave the prime one you just spent hours laboring up to the last strangler in line? Down-slope skiers have as much, if not even more responsibility for their own safety when it comes to dangers from above in the backcountry.

  128. 128 gillesleskieur Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Andrew -> words of wisdom.

  129. 129 Ripple Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    This is turning into a fascinating look at how people really think. Best lesson on heuristics (armchair or otherwise) that I have yet to see.


    Look up what it means to make a sound argument. You aren’t making one. Primarily because you’re confusing the issues and changing your conclusions to fit what you want to believe.

    Yesterday morning you wrote that the skier in question “has NO responsibility to UNKNOWN parties below him.” Others seemed to agree. That statement disqualifies you as a credible source.


    This isn’t Salt Lake City. Since the population (size and demographic) is entirely different, you’re comparing apples and oranges. Clearly, if someone is chasing you up into serious terrain, they’ve made their own decisions. That’s not what happened in this case so it isn’t a relevant consideration.

    He should be given a medal of appreciation? Again flawed logic. Here’s your argument: the fact that someone might make a bad decision later on justifies you making a bad decision right now (in order to save the person making it later on).

    Think about that for just a second.

  130. 130 Gringo Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Ripple votes republican: Nanny state. My morals vs your science.
    Thanks andrew and gilles for stating again what the fa
    cts of life are.

  131. 131 MT is Lame Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:27 am

    MT gets better with each comment, it’s nice and quiet up here without all the radness of the wasatch and teets. Our accesses and snow quality suck and that’s is fine by me. Would suck to have deal with all these egos every time I go out to enjoy the Mtns. Enjoy the poor air quality and overpriced accommodations. Y’all.

  132. 132 wasatch surf Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Look at your own logic. Taylor is serious terrain with a big fucking slide path. How is anyone in that slide path when there are obvious signs of traffic above different from the above example of “someone chasing you up into serious terrain”? Really it seems like this is comparing honeycrisp to granny smith apples. How does the size of the city matter at all? I would dare say that on average the pass is more crowded than the wasatch, especially coal creek and glory.

    I don’t understand why are you passive aggressively trying to mitigate everyone’s opinion on here? You keep posting things like “You’re entitled to your opinion and I appreciate your energy here.” but then a breath later you are telling that same person or someone else they are wrong. Really you don’t need to challenge every post on here that differs from your own opinion. You’ve made your point and that’s fine, how about you leave it at that?

  133. 133 Ripple Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:01 am


    People are frequently coming off of an adjacent mountain into the drainages immediately below Talyor. They may or may not be aware of overhead traffic. I think we can at least agree on the point that we should all be aware of overhead traffic. Clearly, as many radboys have stated here: gotta watch out for death from above. Bro.

    Someone skiing from a completely different drainage that drops in to Coal Creek is different than someone who sees that you’re up there and decides to follow you anyway.

    As for “aggressively mitigating everyone’s opinion,” I don’t feel that aggressive. When someone (well-known ski personality, or otherwise) shows poor reasoning in a very public discussion, I’m not inclined to let it ride. Especially when it’s clear that they’re trying to support actions that were not reasonable.

    Anyway, have a great day.


    I don’t vote. But on ski issues, I would vote conservative.

  134. 134 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Ripple – the Wasatch is very similar to Teton Pass in this regard and has numerous places where people are skiing on top of each other in the backcountry, including Days Fork, Silver Fork, Cardiac Bowl, any of the 10 or so south facing shots into LCC, Wolverine Cirque, etc.. At some point, someone has to go first whether it is breaking trail, skiing a line or ski cutting a slope. There are a lot of risks associated with going first (as well as rewards)and adding on the concept that the first person is also somehow responsible for everyone else in the drainage is daft.

    If you really want to push this to 200+ comments we could start debating the nuances of heli skiers dropping in on tourers (not kosher) versus tourers skiing on top of heli skiers (fine by me).

    I am amusing incident a few years ago while skiing in a puking storm in Days Fork. We broke trail, then skied down, relapped our up track and skied out. The next day, some dude went into Black Diamond (where he thought I worked) and claimed they owed him a new ski pole as I guess we had inadvertently sluffed him while we were descending and while he was following our skin track and he lost a pole. I never even saw the guy and the fact that I hadn’t even worked at BD for a year or so made it even more laughable.

  135. 135 FP Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Andrew you have a serious ego issue

  136. 136 Chris Rusay Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Andrew- Interesting to read your opinion on the subject. I’m curious if you would feel the same though, if a young strong skier, in his or her twenties, had beat you to the top, or OK lets say they started at 4am. Skier decided they felt comfortable doing their first ski cut on a large slope. This 3.5+ monster broke loose unexpectedly on top of a member of your party. It sounds to me that you would only hold yourselves responsible?

    Imagine the ensuing moments in the parking lot, and what you might say…

  137. 137 Euroskier Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Like it or not, Teton pass is crowded. Gone are the days that you only had to worry about yourself. The model is the European Alps. There, if you were to trigger an avalanche – by any means – that injured or killed somebody, the police would get involved. Questions that would be asked: Did you intentionally trigger the avalanche? Yes. Was this the most dangerous time of day? Yes. Did you have to ski the slope to get down? No. Nobody was hurt in this slide, but it they had, GC would be held liable in Europe. He skis there a lot. He knows that. Why else would he try to stay “anonymous”.

    He made a mistake. Nobody got hurt. We should all learn from it. The days of “wilderness” skiing on the Pass are gone. Euroskiing is still fun. Just stop ski cutting at 1:30 PM on south facing slopes on the first day of sun after 4 feet of fresh snow. We all know better than that.

  138. 138 gillesleskieur Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Good point in stating that: NOBODY got hurt….

  139. 139 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Chris – I’ve turned around, or more likely changed my agenda many times when there were other parties ahead of me. If I chose to follow someone’s booter or ski track, then I’m not surprised if they ski down on me. Actually, I would expect them to, which gets factored into my avalanche assessment for the day. If you think a slope might slide due to people being above you, then what about natural triggers, like cornice collapses or wildlife? Should you even be there in the first place?

  140. 140 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I’d disagree with you Euroskier. GC may be an “avalanche guru” but nobody is so good that they could produce an avalanche of that size on demand. For all you know he may have done 50 ski cuts earlier that day with zero results. I had just the opposite experience the other day when none of my ski cuts or cornice stomps produced anything and I was sure they would. Unlike trundling rocks, ski cutting is an excepted and expected part of backcountry travel protocol. To imply that GC somehow had the evil insight that the entire bowl would rip out is giving him, or anyone, way too much credit. If the bowl was really that sensitive then it was just a matter of time before it went considering all of the skier traffic.

    As far as the legal issue goes, what it if had been a complete newbie? Couldn’t it be argued that they were negligent by even being there in the first place without proper avalanche skills?

  141. 141 tony s Jan 26th, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Jeez, It’s not about who’s more liable or stupid, the offending skier or the people in the runout. It’s not really even about whether or when it would have went natural or not. It’s about that WE are not in control when the conditions are like they were yesterday. The issue is that the idea of a massive deep avalanche is not something people experience all the time and therefore more of an abstract thought buried in the subconscious. It was clearly spelled out quite accurately in the Advisory what the potential dangers were that day, but as I said before, everybody defines the term “considerable” way down these days.

    The real problem is, too many skiers think that it won’t happen to them, there, on that day, weather in the run out or on the face. People want to blame others because they just can’t accept that ma nature has that much control. You don’t have any control, whether ski cutting or just skiing, over a deeply buried weak layer, it’s gonna do what it wants and you are just along for the ride. We have very small parameters of control out there, and when the danger is deep it’s well outside those parameters. Same goes if you are “safe zone” skier crossing a runout during those conditions, skiers above or not. Can you get out of the way in 5 seconds? Think about that.

    The elephant in the room is that everybody wants to think the mountains can be a fun safe playground any day they want it to based on their wishful thinking and emotions. If human triggered avalanches are likely and could be up to six feet deep, what do you expect? Expect to be surprised if you think you are in control.

  142. 142 legitprofreshional Jan 26th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I heard GC was so stoked with the brobragadocious blogidiocy here he gave away his skis, hopped on his unicycle, and was last seen shirtless, heading south for the sun and bananas of Ecuador at 20kph singin’ “teton pass can kiss my…”.

  143. 143 Cynic Al Jan 26th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Andrew, you are substantively absolutely correct, I just wish you hadn’t started off with awarding a medal? That kind of hyperbole as it just clouds the issue. No one will ever know if the face would have slid later in the season, ten minutes later, or not at all-and who cares?

    As for putting SAR at risk? Taken to it’s logical extreme, this argument will all have us on the couch, including SAR. The line between risk and foolish risk is never bright and clear. Having seen the Teton County SAR in action on a couple of occasions, it is my sense that SAR moves in slow deliberate steps following a set of protocols for travel in avalanche country that are extremely conservative. Decision making is driven by the perceived risk to the rescuers, first and foremost. And that is probably as it should be. The SAR is a volunteer organization, no one is ever forced to risk themselves for a rescue they consider dangerous. If this is not the case, it should be and therefore, ultimately, the risk remain that of the individual.

  144. 144 KR Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Wow, Andrew, you really think we all ought to be sucking GC’s popsicle in appreciation for saving one of us in the future? What planet do you live on?

    He admitted he had no idea it was going to go like that. I’m sure he didn’t. That’s the point, he had NO IDEA what he could potentially cause. Just a bumbly up there fucking around with his skis, unwittingly unleashing massive consequence. I’m not sure he deserves vilification for that but he sure as shit doesn’t deserve a medal. Then again, we are all apparently pawns in your game of GNAR.

  145. 145 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    The medal comment was tongue-in-cheek KR and Cynical Al, as I hope all of the comments about arresting or charging GC were also.

  146. 146 Jeff Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I have to agree with euroski a little bit. It comes down to intent. If he put in a ski cut to evaluate the snow before sking a slope, fine. I dont care how many people are below you its the right thing to do. But if he was getting rid of ” hangfire ” mid day with LOTS of traffic below, well I don’t think he should be prosecuted if someone got hurt but I do think it would have been a very bad dession. Andrew, I was glad to see you chime in on the subject but find it hard to beleave you would condone Gregs actions if in fact he was cutting cornices in that spot. It’s just such a high traffic area. With so many people coming off the backside of Glory I still cannot beleave nobody got buried.

  147. 147 Cynic Al Jan 26th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    No sense of humor is allowed on the “bloglanche”!

  148. 148 ptor Jan 26th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Yeah it sucks if there’s people below you following up, but they’re not trees so you are automatically responsible for their lives (unless you are a lizard) and you can’t ski on them if there’s hazard for doing so. Sorry, but if there is any risk of f@&king them up by skiing, ya gotta wait for them and then tell them off at the top. Besides, what’s the hurry unless you will die yourself by not skiing right away? So I’d say if one sees people below or one knows they are there, you are responsible for them.(Do climbers start lobbing off loose rocks when there’s a party below them even though the route is chaucy?)
    Likewise if you see people above you and you’ll interfere with their run or put yourself at risk by following up, then you shouldn’t go. Beyond accepting the risk of the daily havalanche azard and the terrain one is exposing themselves in or under or whatever (other skiers or no skiers around), maybe the surfers solution of a black eye could be the only way to make the stupid less stupid because… most people ski where there’s other people. Doesn’t matter if it’s the alps, tetons, wastach or any ski resort.
    Can love be a punch in the face too? I’ve made some dumb mistakes and fortunately the “stink eye” has been good enough to make me feel remorsefull enough to never do that shit again. The world is filled with mountains void of people, if you’re not there, learn from surfers about etiquette or stay home.

  149. 149 elcabra Jan 26th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I can’t lambast the guy for what happened after his ski cut. Shit, the face had tracks on it before, which could have triggered a slide. It could have slid at any time, skied on or not. This whole argument is about what COULD have happened and who COULD have died. No one got hurt or died, and we should all be thankful for that. The aftermath of this slide comes down to the fact that there is now a rampart of snow across coal creek, Taylor Mountain lost some trees and vegetation, and SAR has a little less money in their coffers..that’s it.
    Sometimes, shit happens in the BC.
    Walk away with a lesson learned and get on with your lives.

  150. 150 Andrew McLean Jan 26th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Ptor – as someone with -800 vision, I like your qualifier that you have to actually see the people below for it to be a breach of etiquette. Hear no evil, see no evil, ski no evil. :)

  151. 151 mtsplitski Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Wow, Ripple… call me out for making an “illogical argument”… you’re the only one on this thread of 50+ people who has done that. Perhaps that should tell you something. You attack my argument without showing how/where I changed it. I can see you have some serious analytical skills working in that head of yours.
    Sorry, fella, you’re flat out wrong on this one. I didn’t change it. Maybe you need to work on your reading comprehension.
    My point all along has been that a skier traveling across, through, beneath, or in avalanche paths and runouts needs to be aware of the risks he’s accepting when he does so. On the Pass and in some areas of the park, perhaps the skier needs to be HYPER aware. I have witnessed the complacency out there and it’s unreal.
    And yes, I still maintain that the party’s primary responsibility is to their own group!
    Where did I contradict myself?
    This thing has become a three-ring circus! Where else can all these Chads and Larrys butt heads with Andrew Maclean?

  152. 152 norm larson Jan 26th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Interesting dialog here. I’d like to see Greg post up, we know he’s reading this. C’mon Greg you are not immune from mistakes, fess up, it’s OK we still like you. But whats the real issue here? I’d like to think that its about responsibilty. Not just for yourself but for the betterment of all of us using the backcountry. Gregs lapse of judgement may have a direct impact on all of us as Fish stated so well above. Toby is right whats the difference with this action and trundling off any classic route in the summer? “Duh I didn’t think anyone was down there” or as it was put by Greg “I didn’t think it would go so big”.. The bottom line is you need to think beyond yourself regarding your actions in the area around Teton pass and the Park. None of it is in any way a wilderness and your actions will always have a direct impact on anyone who uses those areas. Even if its just postholing up a skin track. Get a clue. This is one of the worst snowpacks I’ve seen in 37 years of skiing the backcountry here and everyone needs to be aware of what happens when they choose to decide the fate of others. Act like a mountaineer not a powder slut, understand objective and subjective dangers (Greg reread the NOLS manual! you are not my guru) and don’t ski south facing slopes in the afternoon on a sunny day above a popular run out in a considerable or high avy danger period. Remember that there is always more than just yourself to think about with your decisions.

  153. 153 mtsplitski Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Norm- would you say that it would never be appropriate to ski cut, drop a cornice, jump around while on belay, or any other backcountry method of triggering an avalanche on the SE Face on Taylor?
    For some reason I have a hard time making the trundling analogy work for this situation. Trundling has a pretty clear result. The boulder you push off the cliff isn’t going to suddenly propagate and become a hundred yards wide. Also, the climbing party below you is more or less fixed in their position, very different from skiing across an avalanche path and exposing yourself for less than a minute. I see your point about intent though.
    I agree that parties attempting to mitigate avalanche hazard need to think beyond themselves, but I also think “think beyond yourself” applies to all backcountry skiers. As in considering the objective danger of skiers cutting/dropping cornices/”kicking the hangfire” at least as important as the possibility that the path you’re crossing will go naturally. That’s the way I was taught anyway.

  154. 154 Ripple Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Easy there, Mtsplitski.

    All it really shows is that I’m the only one of 50+ people on this thread with ample spare time on my hands. I suppose it may also be possible that no one else thinks your opinions are worthy of commenting on.

    Anyway, if you’re going to put Andrew on a pedestal, you should at least note that he didn’t begin his response by accusing me of being crazed. I’m simply trying to keep the discussion focused on the issue.

    This, by the way, is called a discussion. It takes this form often. Argument, counterargument. In some cases, the arguments really do have premises worth considering. If anyone cares at this point about where you contradicted yourself (likely only you), he or she can cut and paste your posts and pick them apart.

    I’ve already done it for you. Now get back to your schoolwork and read about something more important to humanity.

  155. 155 San Juan traveler Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    This shouldn’t be such a pi**ing match…

    While the person in question seriously endanger others, it appears to have been an accident. I also have set loose a huge slide (not as big as this one) on a slope. I set off a 5ft deep hard slab to the ground and running full path, this was on a slope with 6-8 tracks on it, and a skin track ascending it. Had I know the consequence I would have not done it. I mis-judged stability, and felt stupid. I also made sure no one was caught in it, and also called the sheriff to let them know no one was hurt.

    I’m also with Andrew on this, I try to avoid skinning under handfire and danger whenever possible. More than a few times I have changed my objective because there were people above me. I may skin through a large ru-nout zone when no one is above, but avoid it all together if I know people are above…..

    This makes me glad I can tour where there aren’t the crowds like the Pass and LCC. While this is a sh***y situation that could have been a lot worse, ultimately we are responsible for ourselves in the BC and need to make decisions accordingly.

    Would you climb some rotten alpine climb underneath a party of 3? Of course not. I never trust the group above me in the mountains unless I personally know them. Acting like a sheep with a fixation on the pre-laid skin track is akin to a sheep walking into a slaughterhouse….

  156. 156 MomSkiier Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    There are no old, bold skiiers.

    I wonder how this conversation would have been different if someone had been killed.

    I wonder what his ski partners were thinking. Was this discussed amongst the group and decided as a group that a ski cut was appropriate? Group dynamics are always an interesting discussion in the bc.

    I wonder why, if he feels he did the right thing, he wished to remain anonymous.

    I wonder why anyone would be skiing that shot with a base of persistant facets after huge wind events, a danger rating of ‘high,’ new snow and under the first deliciously, warm sunny skies…when just about everything else on the Pass had slid. Red lights all abound.

    I wonder if there really a concrete answer as to right or wrong in this situation.

    I wonder if this had been a ‘non-guide’ type person how opinions would differ.

    Basicaly, while the conversation is interesting, thought provoking and, at times, amusing, none of us (or a very few, perhaps) ‘knows’ what transpired up there other than what was said to the reporter. Some folks postng here seem to be driven to prove his/her point as THE right answer. I think what we have all proven is that there is no ‘right’ answer in this situation. Many folks have great points/oinions on both sides of the discussion. There are lessons to be learned here and hopefully every person who has actively been following this thread has learned something that will help keep us all a little safer. Cuz one thing is for sure…it is a gnarly snow pack out there this winter. Big time.

    I wonder what Dolores would think.

    Powder snow skiing is not fun. It is life, fully lived, life lived in a blaze of reality. What we experience in powder is the original human self, which lies deeply inside each of us, still undamaged in spite of what our present culture tries to do to us. Once experienced, this kind of living is recognized as the only way to live — fully aware of the earth and the sky and the gods and you, the mortal, playing among them. D. LaChapelle

  157. 157 Fish Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    If everyone waits a few hours, someone will be buried and we can start this all over again.Saw a lot of people, dogs etc. skiing right back into unsafe territory all day. Give everyone a good hug goodbye!

  158. 158 Forrest McCarthy Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Tele is better than AT.

  159. 159 Lee Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Right Arm Forrest, drop your knee learn to ski!

  160. 160 TOBY G Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    SJT, you unintentionally highlight what is fundamentally wrong with this whole scenario. It wasn’t an accident. GC claims to have deliberately tried to trigger this thing in a very popular area, on a busy day. That is why the rock trundling analogy is perfectly appropriate. His disclaimer that he didn’t expect it to go so big is a weak excuse, because it could have been 1/10th the size and still killed people on the traverse.

    All the conversation about personal responsibility to not be below the hazard isn’t really reasonable here either. Sure, I think anyone that follows fall line up a skin track or up an alpine ice climb behind another party is making their own dumb decision, and would be to blame for the consequences. However, Coal Creek is the only logical exit for a dozen popular ski descents off the west side of Glory, and GC certainly knows this. Of course anyone using this descent has the responsibility to use good judgement when traversing under Taylor, but that doesn’t justify someone else completely disregarding the safety of the people below them. We clearly do have a responsibility to consider whether someone is below us, even if they shouldn’t be there. Are we really going to say that the person skiing out the Coal Creek drainage is the irresponsible one?

    I think that it is easy to lose sight of the real underlying issue here. Ski cutting is very much a common and effective technique that we all use in the mountains, so it can be hard to call him wrong for doing so. The real issue is them choosing to ski that particular line at all under those conditions – because of their responsibility to those skiers below them. If they judged that they couldn’t safely ski the line that day without ripping the hangfire onto the skiers that they knew were likely below them, they simply shouldn’t have skied it. We all want to do whatever we want, whenever we want to do it, but it simply can’t be that way when there are other people in the way to consider.

    I could make a thousand analogies, but what would you say to the redneck that kills someone by shooting recklessly into the woods with no consideration for the running trail on the other side of the hill? It’s his rifle, and his national forest – so is it alright for him to do whatever the hell he wants with no regard for whoever else is at the bottom of the hill?

    Another really interesting aspect to this thing is the culprit’s handling of the aftermath. Not only does his reticence steal a learning opportunity for the whole community, but it turns it into the drama that it is now. He IS a very experienced ski mountaineer, and if he had come out to the community and shared what they learned through this mistake it could be very beneficial to all of us, and this forum would have ended 150 posts ago. Ego gets in the way of everything.

  161. 161 Forrest McCarthy Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Historically it takes a fatality in the Tetons to generate this much publicity regarding avalanche hazard and risk assessment. But then everyone is sheepish about discussing what the victims did or did not do right. This discussion is healthy and probably long overdue. We are fortunate that no friends were lost during the event that triggered it.

    My personal takeaway: on a season such as this, even for highly experienced skiers on familiar terrain things can go very wrong. Humbling. I hope not to forget it.

    When skiing other backcountry/wilderness avalanche terrain in and around Jackson Hole I risk killing myself or someone I’m with. On Teton Pass, however, I risk killing people I have never met. Triggering a slide in Glory Bowl, for example, could take out a carload of kids coming home from school.

    It is estimated that Teton Pass experiences over 200,000 skier visits each winter. That is more than many developed ski areas. With that many people you never know who is above or below you. We all need to be more cautious.

    If the greater Teton Area makes it through what several highly respected old timers call “the worst avalanche cycle” they have ever seen, without fatalities it will be miraculous. And possibly the result of an event that no one was killed in.

  162. 162 dante uppsalata Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    San juan traveler, this ain’t no p___ing match, it’s clearly a big d_ck contest and for some of the contestants, a little heat is in order. Time to blow on the embers and put another blog on the fire…did anyone here know that ripple and mtsplitski are really a married couple?, yup, four kids and a cat…come on you two, time to kiss and make up, arguments about bc etiquette come and go, but love is forever. Seriously though, for the word t_l_mark to appear here unedited is a step too far, children could be reading this. Squire randosteez, howzabout giving the heave-ho to outer-staters on this here blog, keep it 22-real, what do they know about this place, nothin but slc-blogjecturers and montanalysts, all of em. Who’s skiin’ taylor the next time it gets interesting, stay outta my way cuz I’m goin’ up at 65fpm (that’s right ladies, magnificent calves and stamina to boot, pure tetonsterone) and I ain’t diggin’ no pits and ski cuts r 4 sissies…gonna straightline that hoochie like a chihuahua on crack.

  163. 163 norm larson Jan 27th, 2012 at 5:54 am

    yes mtnsplitski. Given the prevailing conditions of the snowpack in our area this season I do feel its inapropriate to do your own avy control when there is almost a certainty that there is someone below you.
    There is almost always the perfect time and condition to do any climb or ski descent. That was clearly not the time or conditions to be on the SE face of Taylor (lots of new snow, first sunny day, 2 pm in the afternoon) and anyone with any avy experience should have seen that, there were alot of red flags that day.
    We all choose to subject ourselves to objective dangers when we enter the backcountry. Unfortunately the volumne of backcountry skiers has become the biggest objective danger we face anymore. Like it or not everything you do out there affects someone else.

  164. 164 jim Jan 27th, 2012 at 5:58 am

    I am confused is GC the butler?

  165. 165 Howie Jan 27th, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Late to the Party, Jim?

    Chambermaid. He was maintaining Taylor. Resume if you need one: http://www.climbalaska.org/photos/staff/collins_greg_resume.pdf

    Teton Pass Ambassador Jay Pistono’s Video Conversation of Taylor Avalanche: http://youtu.be/xNibi23b0RY

    News & Guide Story: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=8177

    “We were making our ski check control work before embarking on our run,” he said. “I intentionally triggered it. But I didn’t intend for it to be so large. I was quite surprised at the size of it. I’m sorry to make one so close to the road. ”

    Glad Greg is OK and everyone else. Bad Stuff Happens. If true, it’s a little disappointing that he didn’t stick around to help SAR – or that he would bad mouth others who did similar things in the past. But, hey, even Eve ate that apple.

  166. 166 Jim Wilson Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Ousde of the obvious irresponsible attitude shared by these guides, why are they not responsible for the public resousrces necessary to ensure public safety? SAR only has a limitec number of resources and were not availablefor the afternoon during ahigh day. Not to mention jet fuel costs for the helicopter. This impacted an event at the village and had wider implications, were other incodents to transpire.

    Additionally if the guides were being paid during this exercise in dick waving I hold them and exum to a higher level of scrutiny. Look at the definition of reckless endangerment. It absolutely applies here. While I am not a proponent of lawsuits when nature or phenomenon run its course, ther people put us all at risk.

  167. 167 Fish Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Time to hear from GC and generate a couple hundred more
    posts. Got a job-have to go.

  168. 168 depthwhore Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Right on, Norm. How come the people who say the least almost always have the most to say?

    The whole problem can be boiled down to three thoughts.

    1) You are responsible at some uncomfortable and undefined level if you kill anyone, even if it is an accident.

    2) Only a MORON would have skied or attempted to ski Taylor in those conditions.

    3) There are no living avalanche gurus, there are only avalanche egos. The only people that know everything they need to know about avalanches died during their final lesson.

    Greg. Shame on you. Not for being stupid in the mountains, we are all guilty of that. But for your post-incident behavior. You are not my guru, and you’ll never be my guide. Don’t worry – there are plenty of stupid people out there to worship you and be your clients, as evidenced by the number of tracks on Taylor and other ridiculous lines in these conditions.

  169. 169 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Well it’s another sunny day with another foot of snow and lots of wind the past 36 hours. I’ve got the solution: Everyone blogging here needs to post to Randosteve where they are going skiing the night before, and we can all plan our day accordingly. Chambermaids, butlers and even those that think it’s their house of cards.

  170. 170 Daniel Dunn Jan 27th, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Soooo, what if he hadn’t controlled this (it’s now safe), and it slid today and killed a couple locals (popular kids, they always seem to get the popular people)? Would that be “OK” in the grand scheme of things? Is that a better solution?
    Honestly, in the end, it seems to be a wise choice.

  171. 171 zephyr Jan 27th, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Dick, I think you’re onto something. My idea (one I’ve actually been thinking about for a while, long before this particular brouhaha): bumperstickers that could help people identify the stance of fellow skiers. Maybe something like “I intentionally kick off avalanches. Skiers below beware.” That sounds pretty lame, but I imagine someone out there has a sick, radical, and totally cool way to state it. Anyway, this would allow anyone pulling into a trailhead parking lot to be more aware of the objective dangers.

  172. 172 brian Jan 27th, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Momskiier, WTF?? I wanna smoke some of that.

  173. 173 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Forrest, a nice, reasoned post with the telling remark (no not a telemark) “I hope I don’t forget it”. Lessons do tend to slowly creep towards the dark recesses of the brain. Many readers will come away with lessons learned. But the powder frenzy will continue and the Ski To Die Club members will continue to play.

    On the Euro vs US legal debate: how about the Austrian man recently held legally accountable for his wife’s avie burial and death. Being the more experienced of the two, he was apparently responsible for not requiring her to turn her beacon on. So in Austria, being the more experienced makes the lives of all in your party your legal responsibilty! No personal decision-making allowed!

  174. 174 nate brown Jan 27th, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I admit, I’ve been lurking.

    I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this whole thing for a while.

    I’m killing time in DIA on my way to a skimo race (I know… kinda lame right… but I like it and that is all that matters on that subject)

    Anyway, I just read some more interesting points of view and a bit of unharmonious stuff too. …then I swapped over to facebook and one of my friends posted a great quote taht seemed so fitting to this “blogalanche” that it might be the “blogalung”.

    “The very purpose of spirituality is self-discipline. Rather than criticizing others, we should evaluate and criticize ourselves. Ask yourself, what am I doing about my anger, my attachment, my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we should check in our day to day lives”

    –Dalai Lama

    I’m not a buddhist, and I’m generally turned off by hippie stuff but for some reason this quote seemed so poignant.

    I’m glad no one was physically injured in this even. I’m not sure these events are not free of collateral damage.

    Forrest is dead on about the distasteful nature of a hard conversation after a fatality. This discussion is too raw for that.

    Greg is an important and badass member of our climbing community and I have compassion for the piling on that is happening in real-time. Peace to Greg.

    Best to all.

    Nate Brown

  175. 175 BNK Jan 27th, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Did anyone in GC’s, group scream “AVALANCHE” at the top of their lungs?

  176. 176 Andrew McLean Jan 27th, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Here’s very similar avalanche from the Wasatch from the exact same period:


    Two avalanche guru’s (paid forecasters no less), intentionally kicking off a cornice in a very popular touring area that propagated roughly 100 times more than expected and buried the entire drainage. They seemed pretty stoked on it and I didn’t hear a lot of “Avalanche!” warning yelling or any particular rush to get down a search the multi-acre debris pile for victims. I don’t think any helicopters were called, or SAR. The video ends with “Another day walking the ridgelines in high danger.” Business as usual. No big deal.

    I don’t blame these guys any more than I blame GC.

  177. 177 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    hmmm…thanks for that video link, andrew. similar events, yes, but it looks like visibility to the bottom of the canyon was much better in that slide…and not quite the 3000′ slide path that is taylor mountain. not too familiar with the terrain there, but maybe it’s not as close to the road either?

  178. 178 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    for the record, i think someone just tried to post a response using greg’s name…which is totally not cool.

    it might be him, but i have my doubts, and want to confirm before i approve the comment.

  179. 179 macdougal Jan 27th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    He’s not the first to aggressively try to start an avalanche on Taylor. Me? I have crossed Taylor off of the list until springtime. I think it is more appropriate/safe to ski CC, and I would’ve been PISSED if I was exiting my “safe” line, and this thing came down on top of me because some “guru” decided he’d like to experiment!!

  180. 180 Woodbury Jan 27th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Nate Brown is right. There is no right or wrong about what happend, it just is. Greg’s out of town working and hasn’t seen any of this. I’m very close to someone who was in the party and needless to say, they’re shaken. I feel like screaming “why the hell were you there”? But I can’t. I also play this game and consider myself to have gotten lucky more than once. Life is impermanent. Bad shit happens. Peace to all of us.

  181. 181 PureBigSky Jan 27th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    This has been a truly interesting debate and many great opinions have been brought up here. Like many “debates” it seems that people get so stuck in their own opinions that they lose the ability to compromise with others opinions. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. I can still recall my first ever “backcountry” experience ever booting up to Glory Bowl about 12 years ago in my alpine boots with my skis on my shoulder. My cousin said it was cool, so I said “let’s do it!” We made 3 amazing laps. I knew nothing about avalanches, backcountry etiquette and certainly did not belong up there at that time (all in retrospect). The definition of a gaper, I was at the time… But it was so easy to access from the highway, we were young and naive, how could we not?!?

    Since then, I have taken the time to learn as much as I possibly can on how to be as “safe” as possible in the backcountry. But I have skiied enough “slackcountry” to be thoroughly fed up with the lack of respect shown by experienced and non-experienced skiers alike. I’ve seen skiers/boarders jumping on cornices on the Bridger Ridge with their headphones on, I have had slednecks air into slopes without scoping the slope fisrt, that I have been cautiously skinned up, I have had solo gapers follow my group into zones that they had no buisness being in (without backpacks). I have also seen some of the most experienced skiers make incredibly dumb decisions, and I have narrowly escaped some situations because of them. This might sound hypocritical, becasue I once was a gaper, but I will chew your ass if not kick your ass if I see you putting anyone else in danger in the backcountry at this point in my life whether you are pro or a gaper.

    Maybe we’re not getting the whole story, but his actions sound negligent and dangerous to me. Sure everyone is responsible for themselves, but you have to consider the venue… This was not a remote area where few skiers ski. This was an easy to access slope that is extremely popular. I’m sure this guy feels horrible about this, and I’m sure he didn’t mean put anyone in harm’s way. I could forgive him even if someone was hurt. But, I honestly believe that he had a lapse in judgement that he will certainly regret for quite some time. I’m glad everyone is okay, and I hope this along with the Saddle Peak incident a couple years ago remain in people’s minds at all times. Be safe out there and think of others!

  182. 182 Get REAL punters! Jan 27th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    LOL at the dimwits who blame the guy who kicked it off….sh!t happens buckwheats – it’s your responsibility to take precautions in avalanche terrain, not rant about blaming the human or natural trigger. Do you know how silly you sound??

  183. 183 Jasper Jan 27th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Avalanches happen in nature, humans are a part of nature, if you go into the mountains in winter assume that avalanches can come down from above, so avoid avalanche runouts, even if it makes you walk more. If your skiing, always ski like its gonna slide, always try to make it slide!

  184. 184 Andrew McLean Jan 27th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    How about posting a sign at the top which reads:

    “Skiers in runout zone below. No avalanche gurus allowed.”

    It could be taken in a variety of ways. ;)

  185. 185 Mark Jan 27th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    This is an interesting conversation, thanks for hosting. Forrest brings up the fine point that we are lucky to be able to discus such things without a tragedy involved. Liability, both legal and moral, aside hopefully this will get people to consider backcountry safety and etiquette. One thing that has been nagging at me for a while is the comment that you end your original post with,
    “Another take is that if one were to ski the slope normally (read…shred, haul ass, not load up the slope in the sweet-spot) under the same circumstances, and not try to trigger an avalanche, all that snow would still be sitting there. Food for thought?”
    While everyone needs to, and should, take responsibility for their own actions it would be a shame if inexperienced backcountry users took this sentiment to heart.

    I will respond with a quote pulled from today’s avi advisory,

    “Tracks are no indication of stability and slopes may fail to a single skier or after many people have risked exposure. Caution is advised today as clearer skies are likely to lure people into more aggressive avalanche terrain even though these widespread instabilities remain.”

    Also, for the few posters that need to talk sh*t about each other or GC, at least post with your real names.

    Be safe,
    Mark Daverin

  186. 186 big issue Jan 27th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    We as a community might be able to agree on one thing which is preservation of skiing as a legal activity on teton pass?? We’ve all been told if a skier/ boarder slide hits the road and or causes a fatality or injury there will be an investigation. What can the individual do to protect the resource??

  187. 187 Clyde Jan 27th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Good reading. Sounds like GC is a lot smarter than the haters. Hard to understand why anyone is defending the right to be in that runout zone and not expect shit to happen. Maybe down here in Colorado it’s just a given that a slope like that is going to run big…don’t need no stinkin’ skiers above.

  188. 188 wyomingowen Jan 27th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Hey Steve, how bout putting a link to the news article? Your administrator GREY highlight grabs attention. Because is anything BLACK AND WHITE. It’s been most interesting how the out of towners no matter their level of BCdom can’t grasp the context of person, place, conditions. NO JUDGEMENTS, ONLY HOPE

  189. 189 Randy Marsh Jan 27th, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    can anyone point out on the picture the ski cut? Is there a before photo?

  190. 190 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Randy- Read my earlier posts. I had ring-side seats across the highway. The only ski cut is the furthest lookers-left track that traverses just under the flat section of the ridge, dropping turn-traverse, turn-traverse before disappearing into the slide. This was made earlier that day and nothing moved so he dropped the gut, skiing it cleanly. I looked again just before and during the slide: no other ski cut was visible.

    These are my obs from across the street.

  191. 191 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Nate Brown, you are wise beyond your years for your offering of peace. J Woodbury, you too. We are all guilty of being stupid and getting away with it. Thanks for the Dalai Lama quote, Nate. But c’mon, how many red flags does one need on a day like that? Where is the spiritual self-discipline in being on Taylor on that day at that time? I harbor neither anger against nor jealousy of GC, I do have my pride and attachments, but for so many people to be on Taylor that day provides me no inner spiritual peace.

  192. 192 Walter Sobchak Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I have nothing to add other than “Randy Marsh” is an awesome alias. And Clyde should stick to reviewing sleeping bags!

  193. 193 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    randy…i think the tracks from the ski-cut went down the hill with all the snow.

  194. 194 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:12 pm


    I’ve been told there is an effort to get Greg, Jamie Yount (WYDOT) and Jay Pistono (Teton AmPASSador) to voice there side of the story, and then have the public be able to respond. Early chatter is that it would be held at the Wildroom in Victor.

  195. 195 Meta Peace Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    When comparing these two pics closely, it looks like Skier’s tracks are just near large crown. Also looking at report below (there are 2). The one at 13:30 shows two people caught. Looks like said skier when for a ride, glad all are ok.

    BEFORE photo (credit Trina-diff source)

    AFTER photo (credit JHN&G)

    Although diff. sources, the tracks seem to match up, looks like the gut was run on first lap.


    01/24/2012 13:30:00 Taylor SS AS 4 4.0 72 E 9800 41-45 104 <>
    01/24/2012 14:00:00 South Face of Taylor Mountain HS AS 4 3.5 72 SE 10100 41-45 106 First sunny day after storm cycle. Skied several times same day.

  196. 196 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    for those that get off on this shit, here is a link to a similar/but not too similar event that happened to myself last spring. (only 63 comments.) to my knowledge, one of people in the party below our event on st john, was also on taylor during greg’s slide. i’m surprised they haven’t chimed in here.


  197. 197 X-Reed Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    For a very pertinent and relevant post on a quite similar event that happened last spring on Mt. Saint Johns go to a post in the archives entitled “Thank You Saint John!” from May 1st, 2011 and read the “comments” section. When I first heard about this whole Taylor Mountain incident I instantly thought of this event. The situation is quite similar in many aspects as far as people being below and the decisions of the party above– and the snow pack was completely different from this year. The main thing about the Taylor incident is that no one was injured and we have all had a little food added for thought to our back country travel decisions.

  198. 198 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Here’s the 199th post. Be #200 and win a free heli-ski trip to Jamaica!

  199. 199 randosteve Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    sitting here thinking the same thing.

    i win! :cool:

  200. 200 Dick in the Dark Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Not Fair, Steve! Transportation via GC’s unicycle included in the package.

  201. 201 Fish Jan 27th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    When was the last time CC run out was covered in a similar fashion?Just curious

  202. 202 j freeze Jan 27th, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Not that anybody is still reading this but I just can’t help but clarify one point. This avalanche did not make the slope safer. It is now a exposed slide surface that will be more likely to slide again. It is also now a more shallow snowpack, further increasing the possibility of another slide later in the season. Next time after a four foot storm on a sunny afternoon in a questionable year I hope people use a tad more restraint, but I doubt they will knowing the egos around here. Better I stay out of Coal Creek.

  203. 203 Ripple Jan 27th, 2012 at 10:42 pm


    A community forum, if moderated well, could be a great thing. I’ve spoken to a number of folks in the past day wondering what’s up with the silence from the Jackson avy education community.

    This is a powerful teachable moment. Where are the teachers?

    It’s one thing for everyone to skim the posts, it’s another to have the incident report and data analyzed (correctly) and delivered to an audience for the purpose of debate.

    The obvious, and most important, missing link at this point is Greg’s side of the story. If we don’t know how he was thinking about the objective hazards, we miss a major opportunity to learn from him.

    (Maybe you can even live-stream it so the folks in SLC don’t feel marginalized. After all, their opinions could shape backcountry etiquette here in the Tetons for decades to come.)

  204. 204 Cj Jan 27th, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    We skied Mt. Elle into Black Canyon that day. Many slides on pitches we often ski, sobering. I booted up Glory in a storm the next day and skied into Coal Creek to see the slide. Also sobering. All I can say is “sober up” whether above or below. It’s the year of the dragon. Keep writing and thinking, it’s good to talk. We dodged a bullet. It’s good to be lucky but don’t bet the farm. Do keep skiing.

  205. 205 Dick in the Dark Jan 28th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    While GC and his ski party live on the Idaho side of the Pass, I wonder if a public forum might produce a bigger audience of Pass skiers if held in J-Hole? Is this important enough to hold it both places?

  206. 206 mtnthug Jan 28th, 2012 at 8:35 am

    A note to the “pro” class skiers out there strokin’ it on the mountain. This is not the first time but it is the worst time you’ve been dumb from above. if you ski on top of me this winter knuckles await.

  207. 207 Lynne Jan 28th, 2012 at 10:38 am

    You know,Romeo, I am too close to this one to give commentary quite yet. Not ready to get the internet beat-down, but I did put a short version of what I saw/ how we made our decisions over on the Teton thread on TGR.

  208. 208 Matt Kinney Jan 28th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Mountain out of a molehill.

  209. 209 Tim N Jan 28th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for posting the vid of christian interviewing Jay P – I do want to comment on one thing Jay said and that is about the length of the CC trail covered – I would say “pretty short” – its maybe 125 – 150 ft across there. If you were skinning up it might take 30 – 45 sec to cross, down maybe 5-6 seconds. Most of the debris went past the trail and ended up in the creek.

    I also wanted to give a shout out to Nate for his peaceful post – very big up bro. And good luck in your rando race.

    For those who keep quoting the avi advisory bulletin as a reason “no one should be skiing taylor” – please consider that the advisory bulletin is for less experienced backcountry users. I define “less experienced” as anyone who needs an avi advisory service to tell them what the snowpack is doing and/or likely to do at any given time. I mention this because, to me, one of the purposes of wilderness is that it allows me to go into it and make decisions on my own and forces me to take personal responsibility.

    I was climbing glory when the slide ripped, I skied down into CC north of calverts and skinned up the east ridge maybe 800 ft and skied back down through the trees. I spent about an hour in the CC drainage about 30 – 45 minutes after the slide ripped. I only saw two riders in the drainage and 3 more on the slopes leading into the drainage. I only post this to provide some observations of the amount of use around the time of the incident for those not there.

    I’m not really into the idea of a “forum” – IMHO it is way too likely to be a shitshow and possible “witch hunt”. Ultimately teton pass is first a wilderness area but it’s also a community skiing area. I guarantee that all those in the party on taylor that day would have your back if you triggered something or hurt yourself in the bc and needed help. G did quickly switch to receive and hasty search the slide path for signals – it is unfair to criticize him for not helping SAR, he did what he could.

    I think what those in the “pro” category are most concerned about (at least I’m in this camp) is that those in the “con” category seem to be saying that we (the “pro” folks) need to take responsibility for their (the “con” folks) safety. I think the “pro” folks feel that everybody needs to be responsible for their own safety and not rely on others to keep them safe. BC skiers are all brothers and sisters in the end and I think we all look out for each other – but some are going to want to venture into more adventurous terrain and have the skills to do it. Please don’t create an environment where folks cannot ski what they want to ski in the wilderness – that’s fine at the village but many of us go into the backcountry because there we can make our own decisions and expose ourselves to risks we choose. Tim Nickles

  210. 210 Euroskier Jan 28th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    “that’s fine at the village but many of us go into the backcountry because there we can make our own decisions and expose ourselves to risks we choose.” Tim Nickles

    No, not at Teton Pass. Those days are gone. The above 209 comments are proof that we all need to think of others at Teton Pass. That’s what this is all about.

  211. 211 Ripple Jan 28th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I’m fascinated by the folks who continue to bring up land-use designation. What difference could a wilderness designation possibly make in this case?

    If you want remote wilderness skiing, there are tens of thousands of peaks that fall into that category.

    Tim, I’m not trying to steal the adventure from your ski day. Go big, if you want. Just be sure to ask yourself if your mitigation measures are appropriate given the situation.

  212. 212 Don Carpenter Jan 28th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I’ve stayed out of this conversation, but as a member of the avalanche education community, I’m feeling like chiming in at this point.

    To those that feel you have no responsibility to those below you in the backcountry, I don’t want to get into it with you. I think it will be like a political discussion with my father… we just are not going to agree.

    This topic has been covered in depth here. So, I’m not going to go into the details of the near miss on Taylor.

    We use avalanche accidents and near misses as case studies all the time on our courses. We could make a case study out of this incident and focus on terrain selection, persistent weak layers, and the human factor traps of familiarity and expert halo.

    By looking at accidents/near misses we can use hindsight and learn some lessons. Many of our instructors use personal accidents and near misses.
    The goal of a case study is not to point fingers at the people involved. The goal is to learn what mistakes were made in terms of terrain and snowpack evaluation and human factor/decision making. A lot of learning can happen by looking at the mistakes.

    But, to have really valuable learning we have to go a little farther. Rather than just focusing on the mistakes that were made, we have to figure out how we could get ourselves into trouble in a similar situation.

    We ask students,
    “Have you ever had any accidents or near misses in the past?”
    “How did the decision making break down so that you got into trouble?”
    “Are you susceptible to certain human factor traps?”

    This was a big near miss and we are lucky nobody got killed. There is a lot to be learned. But, if we spend too much time pointing fingers at Greg, it could be easy to convince ourselves we are incapable of making a mistake ourselves.
    This is a great opportunity to remember mistakes we’ve made, ask ourselves why we made them, and if we’ve fixed the problem.

    To quote some smart friends,
    “Don’t try and outsmart the instability.
    The avalanches don’t know you’re and expert and don’t care if you are a local.”

  213. 213 Randy Marsh Jan 28th, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    So had it already been skied and slid? The hangfire was then skicut?

  214. 214 Dale Jan 28th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    A most disturbing thing in the comments of this thread is the unwillingness of the “gurus, pros and bros”, to be objective and open minded to the valid points of others. Particularly nauseating is Andrew McLean’s attitude, which just goes to show how true it is that people who achieve high levels of success in narrowly focused efforts are often sorely deficient in other areas. Highly experienced know-it-alls are not immune from mistakes/accidents, and everyone has room to learn and improve themselves.

  215. 215 tony s Jan 29th, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Brad Carpenter with the shovel to dig us all out of this blogalanche debris!

  216. 216 randosteve Jan 29th, 2012 at 7:38 am

    thanks for the comments, don. i think the view-points of our local avy pros are an important part of the discussion.

  217. 217 trix Jan 29th, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Don C. didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said already. It’s plainly obvious that this discussion has run its course like the avalanche.

    The death yesterday on Utah’s Kessler Peak: http://utahavalanchecenter.org/avalanche_accidents marks the ninth avalanche fatality in the West this season.

  218. 218 BNK Jan 29th, 2012 at 12:51 pm


    I’m not trying to blame anyone for anything. Avalanche forecasting is inexact and shit happens. The unreasonable acts of others is a hazard that we all have to deal with. I am wondering about the question you raised about what to do when you happen to notice someone in your up track. Do you give them a yell to let them know you are dropping in? Ski something else? Wait? Any avalanche “GURU” knows yelling “Avalanche” is basic protocal and the first thing you, and your entire group, should do when triggering a slide.


    Boy Named Kihm

  219. 219 randosteve Jan 29th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    agreed trix…but don c. is a known entity in the area…as opposed to the other random anonymous comments on this post.

  220. 220 Randy Marsh Jan 29th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Well i seem to remember “know entity” kicking off a slide near the summit of Taylor, a number of years back, during an avalanche class around the same time of day. And I will quit beating around the bush and say guru C might want to take a refresher course on ski cutting, for his example is a total disgrace to the whole concept of a ski cut!!

  221. 221 KB Jan 29th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Remember several summers when ice bridge crossed coal creek most of the season. That bad boy runs full track fairly regularly.

  222. 222 Don Carpenter Jan 29th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Hey Randy,
    I did hear about that incident and I wasn’t involved.

  223. 223 Randy Marsh Jan 29th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    My bad! bad memory!

  224. 224 boy wander Jan 30th, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Don’t you all have to get back to your jobs at the mall?

  225. 225 MomSkiier Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thanks, Don Carpenter. Well said.

    To all you rude folks…don’t you realize that your disrespectful /mean/holier-than-thou attitudes totally negates anything you say? If you want to be heard, be respectful.

  226. 226 Gregory g. Collins Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I fear, respect and revere the power of avalanches over life and landscape.

    I apologize for triggering the avalanche off Taylor Mountain. I wish that most of the snow was still up there; but now that it has avalanched, I am glad I was the only one in contact with the slide.

    I support and respect all parties involved, especially SAR and backcountry ski mountaineers.

    I searched the debris field with the assistance of 4 others and gave a detailed report and interview to SAR.
    We recommended no search and rescue.

    I apologize for the size and time of the slide. My intent was to release a smaller slide. I am sorry that my earlier avalanche control attempts on this aspect, did not produce smaller slides during stormier weather. This was an avalanche in an landscape dominated by avalanches.

    I support the practice of ski mountaineering here. I acknowledge the avalanche risks of Taylor Mt. and Coal Creek drainage. I support the discourse following this slide and any increase in avalanche awareness. This statement was delayed by work in wilderness.

  227. 227 randosteve Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Thanks Greg.

    We all make mistakes and it’s important to face them head on. It’s also important to not get too caught up in harsh reality of public opinion…especially on the internet. Live, learn, ski!!!

  228. 228 Brendan O'Neill Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:32 am

    It’s unfortunate that these forums begin or evolve into a barrage of finger pointing and name calling. The best thing that can come from this event is a heightened awareness of the terrain we spend our time in and how we interact with such terrain. Greg, is a friend of mine. He really has been portrayed incorrectly in certain blogs and comments. He is not an avalanche “guru” nor does he claim to be. I think he has a deep sense of humility that often gets overlooked due to his gregarious nature. In all actuality, Greg’s awareness and knowledge of avalanches is acute and I have learned much skiing with him. I will continue to ski with him because I completely trust his judgement. The size of the event that occurred on Mt. Taylor was beyond the expectations of Greg and his party on the mountain that day. He regrets putting anyone in harms way and is beyond relieved that nobody was in the slide path at that time. We should move on from the name calling and self righteous posting and create a learning experience from this “near miss”. Let’s bring our community together not divide it further.

  229. 229 Theo Meiners Jan 30th, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Friends Of the Back Country,Listen to your words are they representative of your hearts.The example/lesson of the direct actions of my friend Greg C. is that we all must expect the unexpected this season, through out the inter-mountain and Rockies!We are all skiing on cinder-blocks stacked on dixi cups, we are currently at about 8/10 inches of water in the snow pack and the tipping point could be 11/14 inches of total water ,the house is going to come down it is built on a weak foundation.In the mean time there has been new events that have created more hazard on the surface layers ,#1 large grapple event, #2new snow #3North west wind ,cross loading our favorite aspects and creating sensitive wind slab,that could once moving ,could wake up the Dragon that lurks below it all.We all want the same things long life in the mountains and the happiness this rich activity gives us, we all deserve respect for our pursuits, this is a community and the down slope consequences are real, not just the events of the day and the potential of innocent loss ,but those consequences last a long time into the future, they always effect your family ,your friends for their entire life,this is the whole family and this community has a storied history of loss in AVALANCHE and every survivor knows what I mean,have fun be careful and remember how much you are loved and would be missed by the many who follow you, come home!with all your friend!Much respect Theo

  230. 230 Andrew McLean Jan 30th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I wonder what the responses would be like it the tables were turned – experienced skier below gets buried by inexperienced skier from above? I’m guessing the experienced person would still be at fault as they should know better than to be skiing below others.

    The ultimate zenith of avalanche enlightenment is to quit backcountry skiing once you realize that there is no way to make the sport 100% safe. You are at fault if you are educated enough to know better, yet also at fault if you have no education.

  231. 231 BNK Jan 30th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Everyone should read The Snowy Torrents.

  232. 232 david Jan 30th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Clearly what we need in this situation is MORE SIGNS. Including one pointing to where the dead horse is buried, because I now feel the need to dig him out and beat him myself.

    Instead of a ‘Taylor meeting,’ how about we have a party celebrating Greg’s continued good health, and mine, and yours? Snow and mountains are miraculous, and I only know how to travel in them because my friends, including Greg, taught me. And I’ve taught myself, through a series of boneheaded maneuvers and astonishing fuck-ups that fortunately, you know nothing about.

    Mistakes are the curriculum of mountaineering. Here I learned that even after shralping my customary sick-gnar line on Calvert’s Ridge, I can still die skiing out Coal Creek if I don’t pay attention, and in high danger, ski cutting the poop chute is as bad an idea as that sounds. Great lessons, especially since nobody got hurt. Anybody still unclear on these?

    Finger pointing just means you’re the dick with the extended finger, and crying over spilt snow, after a while, makes you sound like a baby. I can’t imagine that a Taylor meeting is going to add much to the discourse. Sorry if that offends anybody — this is just my opinion, written on the flank of this stiff, stinky horse.

  233. 233 david Jan 30th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Also, because I may never accomplish anything else as significant, I must claim credit for the term ‘blogalanche,’ which I used in a headline on the snaz in 2008 to describe how steve, jim, stephen, and I blogged the bejezus out of the slide that hit the headwall restaurant.

    Feel free to use it though, whenever you want, as long as you attach a little trademark symbol and my name and URL in parantheses every time you do. Thx.

  234. 234 KR Jan 30th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Andrew –

    You have demonstrated a clear mastery of hyperbole but aren’t looking too hot on the reading comprehension part of the exam. IF GC has accepted some responsibility, why can’t you even contemplate the fact that a person intentionally setting off a slide might bear some (if shared) responsibility for any unintended consequence?

    The ultimate zenith of avalanche awareness might be to retire from the backcountry,as you say. Or it could maybe be just to actually post something useful and participate in the discussion instead of trying to be provocative. Your experience would be useful here but I guess it’s your business if you don’t wish to be constructive.

    Also, I am guessing the inexperienced skier would be looking at a sea of Bibles, pitchforks, and ropes. At least interwebz versions of such.

    Finally, I guess I’m not sure either what purpose a public discussion would have in resolving or changing opinions but at least it’s a cut above internet debating and it seems like usage discussion on an area like Teton Pass is never a bad thing.

  235. 235 deez Jan 30th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Theo speaketh as a tried and true elder of the mountains. Word

  236. 236 david Jan 30th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    KR, you’re right, discussion is never a bad thing, especially in person. I just feel this particular incident has been blown out of proportion. But maybe we’re all so in love with skiing we’ll take any excuse to get heated about it.

    I’m a little jaded by evening meetings about backcountry skiing. I think it’s more important that those who regularly ski the pass communicate with those around us. I hate signs because we should be fulfilling that role ourselves — educating each other, discussing snow and safe routes, keeping eyes on each other.

    We need to foster an on-the-hill culture of communication, awareness, and good calls. Otherwise the pass is just going to get more and more ridiculous as it inevitably gets more crowded.

  237. 237 jay pistono Jan 30th, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    my suggestion for the forum was to give greg a chance to state the facts, face to face. he had the presence of mind to stick around after the slide to offer some details. many times on the pass, etc. all we have is a debris pile and lots of questions, i will say that the event lit a fire under this community and to a certain extent the west in general. i have been overloaded with comments about the slide- and keep in mind it’s about the slide and not about greg and the other skiers. this slide will continue to teach lessons, beyond all those taught over the years by greg. the next time you see thw man please keep your emotions and anger in check. i have great faith in this ski community and it’s ability to cooperate and learn. we have many freedoms in the backcountry, if we don’t cherish those freedoms enough to govern ourselves- and the shit does hit the fan, somone else will make the call for us. we don’t need to learn lessons that way. and yes if we need to have a disussion to air this out in the future, let’s do it with all of the zen we can muster. as of lately on the pass, their is stil a strong desire to talk it over and learn, … skiing, it’s a lot more fun than talking about skiing. but once in a while, it’s worth the effort to share the lessons and listen to the voice of the snow while we’re at it. thanks john j. pistono

  238. 238 mike fischer Jan 30th, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I have read every comment in this out of control diatribe.I have watched a local legend(yes Greg is that badass) get beat down by a bunch of people getting way out of line.I am not encouraged seeing our ski community divided.There is room for calm intelligent discussion regarding how we affect WYDOT and each other while doing our thing on fabulous Teton Pass.We are blessed with some of the easiest accessed powder skiing in this country,I think it is high time we all respect the venue,WYDOT,and each other.We are better than this, now lets show it…………………

  239. 239 FP Jan 30th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Nice comments Greg… Way to step up…Much respect and forgiveness given

  240. 240 Ted Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Greg – POTT (Post Of The Thread)
    Theo’s was dam good too.

  241. 241 bissell hazen Jan 30th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    there is absolutely no right or wrong answer to this scenario, the conditions are very very gnarly there this winter, but yet the slide paths still get skied. best option in my opinion – jackson hole backcountry skiers be positive and learn from this. no one was killed or hurt! we all make mistakes in the mountains, its part of learning, one always can learn more about the mountains, even the best. greg collins has my respect, i would ski with him anytime anywhere.

  242. 242 macdougal Jan 30th, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    apology accepted. But with the conditions described by Theo, I just wish we were all content with a few nice laps on Thanksgiving bowl or something….
    Thanks for commenting.

  243. 243 Jimbo Jan 31st, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Common sense was left at the table

  244. 244 john doyle Jan 31st, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Seems like a year when the less experienced can easily be killed; even the very experienced are unwittingly making bad mistakes. Theo Meiners’ comment gets my vote: He left a well thought, positive comment without getting his ego involved.

  245. 245 lanny j. Jan 31st, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I picture Gregg in our life long waltz with the mountains that day; he slips up… A Tsunami!! the music plays on… the earth roars.. what about others below???? his heart sinks like the Titanic… Mt Taylor and god whisper in his ear “sorry you stepped on my toe”..

    Skiing in avalanche terrain is pretty much like playing the lottery in reverse. Still it’s soul food…

    Another near miss teaches us all… everyday.

  246. 246 Mitch Jan 31st, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    The mountains are real and the conditions are raw! The traffic does not matter. Opinions vary as they always will. Be glad, in this event that we learn, peacefully! If you have never kicked off an avalanche then please don’t judge. The man apologized and thankfully, it is only a discussion….. Get It! Case closed ! Get on with your life…I hope it involves skiing. Live to Ski!

  247. 247 murph Feb 1st, 2012 at 9:42 am

    an of course now the threat that “they will close the lot or the slopes above” if there are more incidents.for all you THAT POSTED THAT fear mongering shit here. THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN THIS COMMUNITY WONT LET IT SO STFU!

  248. 248 Karl Feb 5th, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Looks a lot like New Yuppie Transplant Flatlanders think backcountry means lift-served fancy resort — minus the lifts.

    If you go off-area right next to your favorite Resort, squire/madam, you are taking your life into your own hands and lose the right, privilege, or arrogant claim toward righteousness when blaming anyone but yourself for anything happening out there.

    If you want fully controlled conditions where you can just switch on your iPod and focus on your HRM because Dawn Patrollers have to be back at their telecommuting workdesk by 11 AM because there’s more e-images to buy and sell to make that second million, maybe you should buy a lift pass and stay on-area?

    Otherwise, assume some responsibility for YOURself — which means you don’t seek to blame the guy who ski-punched a slab for HIS own protection.

    When you go off-area, whether “side” country or “back” country, it’s your arse in your own hands. Mind yourself. And drop the ridiculous flatlander arrogance and hubris toward what it entails to recreate in mountains.


  249. 249 OC Feb 8th, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I think Molly has the last (and correct) word on this.


  250. 250 Jeff Feb 8th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I remember who GC is now. I remember him as a kayaker. He was what you would call a “hole hawg” or “wave hawg” (depending on the level). There would be like a 15 to 20 person line up at king’s wave (a popular surf spot just south of Hoback junction) and he would stay on it for over 5 minutes. This is fine if it’s just you are your friends but not like when it’s like that. In whitewater rodeo, you get a 30 second heat to throw down as many moves as you can. He’s certainly a good kayaker, but there were people who were even better than him would stay on the wave way less in time than GC … maybe throw some advanced moves and just get blown out of there. But not GC. He really didn’t seem to show much consideration for the rest of us. And now this all these years later. Some people will never change.

  251. 251 Tom Feb 8th, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    There are times you know when slopes are going to or can release on their own and there are times when slopes require some kind of human trigger or a really warm day. Since, it was the latter (and it wasn’t a very warm day), the people moving through the terrain trap, Coal creek, could do so with minimal risk, as long as the moved through quickly. Who would have ever imagined there would be somebody up on Taylor on that day? You can be a great driver, but you will never know when that drunk will suddenly swerve into your lane. You have to ski defensively on the Pass and never rule out the human factor … just like you were taught in driver’s ed.

  252. 252 Chris Feb 9th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Sounds like people want the backcountry to become a place where big brother watches over your shoulder… I think most would agree that we go there for a sense of freedom. That being said I don’t know the area, so I can’t pass judgment. One comment I can make from my time spent in Rodgers Pass, is that people are extremely complacent while traveling in terrain traps and avalanche paths. Practice safe travel techniques and remember when you are in a high traffic area you should EXPECT people to be hitting large lines especially in sunny conditions.

  253. 253 brents Feb 12th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I have climbed and skied with “GC” for about thirty years…he is not a kayaker.wtf

  254. 254 Jim Feb 13th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    One of the issues is growing numbers of back country skiers which creates its own set of dangers. It will get worse as it becomes more popular and mainstream as it seem to be. It must be difficult in crowded places like SLC. I am sure upset when a group skis down above me putting me in harms way. Its rude. Sometime you don’t know if someone is below you because you can’t see. Is there some protocol for crowds in the backcountry? There should be some code of courtesy.

  255. 255 Dick in the Dark Feb 20th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    We’ve talked this round and round, but take a look at the February 2012 issue of The Avalanche Review (Vol. 30, No. 3). With several months of hindsight, it reviews the tragic events of Novenber 13, 2011 in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and offers some valuable insights into the mindset in the mountains these days. Both the Taylor and the BCC events highlight the human element in almost all avalanche incidents and the fact that you can’t control what the other guy does. The Utah Avie Center counted 18 human-triggered slides that day, with 6 “catch and releases” of riders, including a broken femur in one and the death of Jamie Pierre in another. According to UAC, nearly everything steep enough to slide had come down that day. One party that remotely triggered a slide turned around but passed “at least 150 people” still going up! The rescuers doing evac and emergency care at the toe of the femur-break slide were passed by many groups on their way up that barely even took note of the scene. Before rescuers arrived, that scene was dusted, a near miss, by another slide triggered from above. The take away lesson for the pros at UAC: Tom Kimbrough: “I think…all the good riders out there that day knew they were going to trigger avalanches.” And from Dave Richards: “I also think that people (and he includes himself)reach a certain point in their ski careers when they begin to think that this kind of slide is a manageable deal….We have to find a way to drill into experienced people like this that there is something different about every day. That every slide is different… We have to find a way to diminish confidence…I still don’t know what to say to people to prevent this in the future. I do agree about the ‘madness’ part though.” In this same issue of TAR the editor, who was also on Taylor on a different route the day of the GC slide, freely confides (confesses?) that she is “the skier that I warn students about in our Human Factor/Backcountry Psycology classes….Perhaps some insight into patience will come with this issue of TAR.” She has no answer either, but takes the necessary first step: to recognise her own weaknesses and acknowledge she wages a never-ending battle with her personal “powder demons”!

    The take-away lesson for me is that the human brain will be rational and scientific only to a point, that we ALL have our inner demons to battle with, and you can’t expect someone else, with their own itinery, demons and level of confidence/patience/lust to be looking out for you. And attempt daily to look inside yourself, trying to balance common sense and desire; not an easy exercise, this honest self-assessment. Even harder to put a fix on.

  1. 1 Backcountry.com: The Goat » Blog Archive » Massive Jackson Avalanche Kicks Off Cloud of Debate Pingback on Jan 27th, 2012 at 7:00 am
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