There is some really sad news coming out of Utah last night and this morning, and it is very early in the season to be reporting on such a horrible event.Â Professional skier, Jamie Pierre, was killed in an avalanche while skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday. Jamie was known as a religious person and for once holding the record for the biggest cliff drop on skis. He will be dearly missed by the entire skiing community.
With a full moon over the weekend and questionable early season avalanche conditions, the incident occurred at approximately 2:30pm while descending the South Chute in the Gad Valley near Alta and Snowbird Ski Resorts, which are currently not open for the ski season yet. Known for his skiing, Jamie was snowboarding at the time and triggered a 14-20â€ soft slab immediately upon entering a northwest facing slope that carried him hundreds of feet over steep, rocky terrain. Though neither Jamie nor his partner were carrying avalanche rescue equipment, it likely wouldnâ€™t have made a difference, as Jamie was found only partially buried during rescue and most like died from trauma incurred during the slide. An initial accident report from the Utah Avalanche Center can be found here.
In 2007, Jamie Pierre set the world record for the largest cliff drop on skis when he launched off a 255â€™ rock face located behind the Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Jamie praised God and Jesus prior to his jump, stating “Jesus Christ died on the cross for you.” Jamie had to be dug out and â€œrescuedâ€ out of his bomb-hole landing and his feat sparked a debate as to what qualifies as a legitimate jump, since many skiers donâ€™t immediately ski away after jumping off of cliffs that big. Jamieâ€™s record was surpassed a year later when Fred Syversen accidentally skied off a 351â€™ foot cliff…and somehow survived.
In my opinion (and many others) this is one of the sickest POV edits ever.
Though Jamie continued to ski for photographers and movie companies, Jamie claimed to be slowing down and trying to take less risks due to being a new father and having a family.Â Most recently, Jamie’s video clip (seen above) has proven to be an outrageous and extremely popular example of POV filming and editing, and has nearly all skiers that use POV cameras trying to mimic his backpack style camera mount.Â Rest in peace Jamie…and may all your landings be soft in heaven.
YOuâ€™re right. That is some sick POV. Blessings to his family.
Man, that’s really sad. I was just viewing photos of that recent Wasatch storm with envy, but obviously also a risk 🙁
HUGE LOSS! That guy was so great.
Early season with crazy layers. No Avi gear? With his experience? I am stunned…
“With a full moon over the weekend and questionable early season avalanche conditions…” Steve, the full moon? Huh? What do you mean?
not much BBG…just that f-ed up shit happens during the full moon. jamie pierre dying while riding a snowboard mid-november in utah? to me, that is extremely f-ed up. you survive 250+’ cliff drops, hundreds of other jumps that most people wouldn’t event think of doing…and you die on some BS little shot in LLC…in freaking november?
just goes to show the direction backcountry skiing is going and we will all be lucky to be alive in the next 5 years if our attitudes towards backcountry skiing and risk don’t change. time and time again, we escape injury and even death by mere seconds or inches, which makes us feel invincible. we watch movies of dudes slaying huge lines, hucking insane airs and surviving the most epic wrecks and avalanches, that we become numb to the risk and hazard. fat skis, ABS packs, back protectors, avalungs, helmets all stack the odds in our favor, but they also give us a sense of security and confidence that we can survive anything. unfortunately, and in due time, we will all learn that we actually can’t.
“official full moon” was on thursday though…my bad.
My passion my defeat me, but it’s keeping me alive.
A fine way to go, in my opinion.
The timing is unfortunate.
the latest pictures from the accident site and slide jamie and his partner triggered earlier in the day are sobering.
this is the accident sight. it looks like jamie didn’t have a chance when he got slid through all those trees and rocks for about 800′. maybe full body armor would have helped, but a shovel and transceiver wouldn’t have done diddly.
this is the first slide they remotely triggered earlier in the day…bootpack on the right. it is unclear as to whether they knew they triggered this slide or not.
the final accident report from the UAC can be found here.
Jamie was a great guy, very genuine, polite, and humble. Huge loss for his family and the skiing community.
Dumb. Pure stupidity. Like Bush’s romp into Iraq. Unprepared and overconfident. Helmet?
Feel sorry for his family.
“.. neither had any rescue gear or formal avalanche training… They had not consulted the avalanche advisory that morning in which the danger was rated Considerable to High. ”
Says it all.
Charlie, maybe I’m missing something, but other than violating common sense, their decision not to bring avy gear didn’t really have any bearing on the outcome. As for formal training? I know a couple people who have no “formal” training whatsoever, but have read so much, and spent so much time out there, that “formal” training would hardly be worthwhile. I don’t know what Jamie knew about avalanches, but it was obviously enough to keep him alive for the last 30 some years. And an avy advisory of Considerable? (it only said “It could easily go to HIGH danger in the Cottonwoods if we see heavy snowfall this morning. ” which it really didn’t…
If you haven’t skied something over 30 degree slope angle on a Considerable day… do you even ski? And I’d almost prefer to make my decisions from what I see, as opposed to the avy advisory anyways. In some places, the avy advisory is so vague and broad that it is nearly worthless, although that’s not the case with the UAC.
I can’t say I agree with the decisions they made that day, or other decisions he’s made, but you have to admit that there was some shit luck involved there. Maybe he didn’t say his pre-flight prayer? I think David said it best.
“…other than violating common sense” says dumb to me. When I first heard about his jump at Grand Targhee, I thought the same thing. He’s reckless and his day will come. Did he do any field tests? Did he just take a loookie-look and call it good. If you’re trusting God to protect you in the back country instead of common sense & skill, then you’re a fool. God doesn’t care. Clearly.
Here we go with the haters. Predictable remarks who judge others based on their own personal risk tolerance being different than the deceased.
Was Shane McConkey a retard when his chute didn’t open? Was Doug Coombs an idiot for falling in La Grave for not climbing his line first? How about Hans Saari, died slipping on ice in a couloir? Do you think Bill Briggs had a beacon when he skied the Grand, solo?
Jumping off a 250ft cliff isn’t much different than Scot Schmidt hucking to hero status in the 1980’s. Just a progression of the sport.
There’s no progression of the sport going on here. Just foolish skiers. And jumping off a 250ft cliff is more stunt than sport especially when you end up landing head first and need a rescue. That doesn’t take skill.
According to the report:
Before he dies, “they remotely triggered a large avalanche that covered their tracks that they had just made. ”
“The weak snow structure has been well documented over the last few weeks”
“This incident is difficult for many reasons. We heard of over 10 human triggered avalanches on the day of the fatality,”
“The rescue teams from the ski areas and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue often put their necks out on the line to access and evacuate an injured party. It was reported that other parties at Alta continued to ski and knock down avalanches into Greeley Bowl while the rescue was in progress. Creating another incident during this situation is unacceptable.”
We should leave these irresponsible skiers buried until spring.
I’m personally sick and tired of reading death reports that only say “he/she was a nice person”. It’s time to face the facts, acknowledge bad decisions and have some analysis and discussion on the incident and person beyond the objective avalanche report. Nobodys gonna learn anything by leaving it at “Jamie was fun to ski with”. He made a very bad decision, there ARE reasons why, it’s not hate, it’s reality that sometimes sucks. He did not go down in a blaze of glory when fate somhow overstepped his well calculated and daring plan.
There’s much more to be discussed about all the recent accidents of legends and non-legends alike (some of which Derek has mentioned) and it’s not about name-calling, it’s about cold brutal analysis which is what feeds all our information banks to create a knowledge/experience base for when we’re out there and making decisions.
Jamie…no avi gear, no avi training, ignoring current conditions, riding same aspect that was just triggered, snowboard…no scenario for rose coloured glasses.
RIP Jamie, crank it up…
This reminds me of the avy that killed Joel Roof early season in Glory Bowl:
Bad shit happens to good people. Good people make bad decisions. Haters are gonna hate, I think that often comes from jealousy by people who don’t have the balls that many pro-skiers and boarders have. Yeah pro-skiers and boarders often make stupid decisions. The reason that they can huck huge cliffs is that they don’t have the same fear threshold that most people do. Maybe they are just not that smart. This doesn’t mean that they are bad people. Smart people often have way more fear and are often limited by their own minds. We all die sooner or later. Guys like Jamie are there to inspire us and remind us to get over our petty fears. Rest in peace Jamie.
Celebrate his life….(RIP) PTOR makes some good points….Making black and white descisions are not always easy, a lot of gray comes into play, especially when the fun meter is way to high….And we all at some point have been caught in that fun meter at some point, while backcountry skiing.
That dude is perceived by some as a foolish stuntman but was no doubt a serious charger. Impressive video and slideshow, I see all sorts of skill and progression. Definitely an unfortunate decision, RIP.
I agree with your statements because you are making them politely, not saying “Leave ’em buried until spring.” WTF is wrong with people. Being a douche is not mandatory for discussing what can be learned from someone’s death.
Learning from others mistakes is about the best thing that can come of someone dying in the mountains, I agree with that. But being a disrespectful asshole doesn’t need to be part of it.
For those that think formal avy education is somehow mandatory, I call bullshit. While important, field experience is more valuable. There are no classes on alpinism. When rock fall starts, how to know if a piton is bomber, etc, etc. You just go into the mountains and figure it out. Nobody thinks you’re a fool because you didn’t take a class. But for avies, well, different standard for only one facet of danger in the mountains.
What’s next, mandatory climatology classes?
I think people should be angry with these skiers. They put the lives of others in serious danger. That was pointed out in the report. This isn’t a game. It’s not innocent fun. Other children could have lost their fathers because of the actions these skiers.
Skiers who have an exaggerated sense of their own importance & abilities need to be brought back down to Earth. They need to feel the anger. Their actions are unacceptable.
Did he throw caution to the wind when the situation called for the exact opposite? It’s hard to judge with any authority but my gut reaction from reading the reports made me think he was overconfident. He underestimate risks and exaggerated his ability to control events.
I remember when Wolling died in 2010, at the JHMR. Didn’t Wally skip the basic step of putting on a helmet? Hadn’t the resort mandated helmets for almost everyone ‘to set a proper example’ after the DOE cited them for failing to protect Hess?
The message I took from that was that there’s an arrogance about safety among too many professionals and it seems to be on display, again, in Little Cottonwood.
This doesn’t’look like a fluke of nature, or a calculated risk that went bad. It looks like a flaw in judgement.
More power to him. News! We are all going to die. Enjoy life!Don’t live afraid to die. His faith gave him that attitude. He wasn’t afraid to die. And no on in S&R is forced to do it. That is what they want to do.Give me a break with the BS about putting everyone else at risk.
Some interesting comments… I have had a few discussions with fellow skiers about this one so here are my thoughts.
1. Terribly sad for the family Jamie left behind.
2. It’s fine to respect Jamie as a skier and admire what he did while alive.
3. It is important to realize how influential these “professional” skiers can be to aspiring rippers of both their peers and, more importantly, a younger generation. While I was not there, it is pretty easy to read the accident report and find many mistakes that this “professional” skier made. To name a few:
– Didn’t consult that avi forecast written by true professionals.
– Didn’t bring any avi gear (I don’t care if a beacon, shovel, and probe would not have made any difference in saving Jamies Life). To head out on a ski tour without these standard safety tools is basically making a statement that you either don’t know or don’t care to pay attention to avalanche hazards.
– Missed some obvious signs about the current snowpack and instability.
– Fell into the “familiarity heuristic” trap by skiing terrain they though they knew
– Dropped into a steep, rocky, aggressive line in an early season, thin snowpack.
– We could go on…
Now, regarding professionals:
Derek, you state,
“For those that think formal avy education is somehow mandatory, I call bullshit. While important, field experience is more valuable. There are no classes on alpinism.”
True, fully-certified “professional” mountain guides have to take and pass a rigorous series of courses and exams in three disciplines (rock, alpine, and ski mountaineering). Watching several friends go through the process, I can attest that this training and education takes SEVERAL YEARS of dedication, committment and study. There are definitely “classes” on these things and for a “professional” skier like Jamie Pierre to NOT have the most advanced avalanche education available is, in my mind, setting a pretty BAD example.
When he then goes out, ignores many warning signs, makes bad decisions and gets himself killed it is sad. Sad for Jamie and a tragedy for the family he left behind and for his peers and the younger generation of skiers aspiring to become “professional” skiers.
Alex Honnold, hero status for solo exploits.
Uli Steck, hero status for solo exploits.
Why don’t the same standards apply?
This is sad news. I knew Jaimie when I was washing dishes at the ‘Bird and he was inspirational to see ski. Really aggressive, dedicated skier. This is truly a tragedy for his family and it makes me sad.
That being said, I agree with DD in some respects. We need to take it back down to earth, people. Courage is great, but there are so many other parts of life to be courageous in other than the line you take. There are a lot of other really great dead skiers (who were also dads) out there : McConkey, Petersen, Coombs, Johnson…
We should reevaluate what we admire in other skiers if all these great people are dead in the name of “progression.”
derek…i see where you are going with this, and i also wonder what would be said if uli or alex slipped while soloing some insane rock/ice face.
would they be called stupid as well?
“would they be called stupid as well?”
If they were skiing at Alta on November 13th, and took the same actions as Jamie with the same results, then yes, they could be called stupid (assuming the accident report is the complete story).
It’s a case-by-case assessment.
However, there is a difference between the climbers and all the skiers that set off over 10 avi’s near Alta. It’s one thing to push your own limits in a incremental manner, it’s another to push Mother Nature’s in a cavalier way. Alex Honnold & Ueli Steck climb up difficult routes in lightning-fast time but not in lightning.
Impressive stunts don’t make you smart or dumb. It’s how you calculate, and control, the risks to yourself and others that sets you apart from the irresponsible showboats.
Thankfully, there is freedom to experience a spectrum of risk. Pierre made a tragic choice…that was his to make. Successful soloists on rock or ice, wingsuiters, etc. are pretty far to one end of the extreme and use expertise/experience to control the margin of error, while the recreationalist hoi polloi swarming Teton Pass “in the BC” exist towards the other end in light of great avy reports, gaz-ex, safety in numbers, etc. All should be free to range throughout this spectrum (to include driving your snowmachine across a gov-controlled lake past legions of rule-abiding-scotch-drinking-god-bless-em-ice-fishermen to get some righteous turns and talk w/bros about it) unless they are endangering others. It is smug, finger-wagging pontification to state that any single BC skier get an avy cert…and what Big Brother would determine this?…how about having the NSA and AIARE create a task force to (1) Take out the insurgents at AAI in a night raid under the little known T2SFWADFOD “They’re Too Smart, From Wyoming [not CO/CA/Europe], And Don’t Follow Our Directives” codicil (2)check that you have paid for/attended your annual course and employ a live drone feed to monitor your pit profiles to ensure SWAG-accordance (watch for that Maverick if your crystal ID is dicked up). Moreover, these attitudes advocate a mindset that would push skiing the wilds further into the realm of the privileged few with mountains of discretionary time/$$$. Take your avy course if you like [I have b/c I’m not blessed with intuitive snow-sense] but the mandate to have a “license to ski” is foolish….there are plenty of folks with little/no formal avy education and far superior field skills to the weekend stoke-warrior equipped with his/her/it’s shiny new Avy course card.
Everything that Ptor has said I have to agree with and give a solid +1. Very tactful writing and well worded. It is hard to judge and to point fingers or be an armchair quarterback in situations like this, But that is usually the overall theme in internet forums like this. There are many great comments and thoughts for discussion in this thread and this site is a respected resource, so much of the riff raff comments tend to get filtered on a site like this. Unfortunately we still get a few disrespectful comments and when someone is dead, and their is a widowed family in the wake of this tragedy, it is sad to see that some still choose to attack or criticize the deceased.
Much the way Ptor has laid a very tactful door for discussion in a very tasteful choice of words, The Utah Avalanche Center did the same. I respect the writing and the tone that was conveyed in the accident report. They didn’t leave anything out, but needed to say things in a respectable tone. “VERY PROFESSIONAL”. Once again very tactfully written and the facts are clear. I would hope that folks in here would respect that a man is dead and a family has been widowed, so please think about your tone, words and judgment out of respect to the family. How people choose to interpret the report or what the fans, kids and industry as a whole choose to take away from this is entirely up to individual interpretation and what people choose to believe or want to hear.
I too am tired of reading this stuff. The report didn’t make me angry or bitter in any way, It made me very sad though. Sad that an industry Icon and “professional or Expert” made these decisions. I feel there is a bigger message that needs to come from this incident in addition to the praise and celebration of Jamie’s life. A message that maybe now is the time and this is the incident that should be used to exploit or deliver a serious message. There is a time to grieve and let family and friends take that time to absorb their loss, celebrate his life and move on, but in wake of the acceptance and moving on, We can’t ignore the facts, the bigger picture, the message that needs to be delivered.
I can assume that next month all the magazines are shifting there covers last minute to write and celebrate Jamie’s life and career. I am sure the industry will have all sorts of stories and tributes etc to celebrate Jamie. I believe as an industry Icon I would expect nothing less of the media to cover him in all his glory. What I do wonder is will we get the “MESSAGE” that needs to come from the incident, the what can we learn, or will that be left for all to figure out on their own. There is quite a bit at stake if the industry doesn’t put some emphasis on the facts and what stands to be learned for the future of this sport and or the kids that look up to someone like Jamie. I feel it is up to the industry to step up and put it out there in a respectful way and get a bigger message to the kids, the fans, the reps, the sponsors, the movies and any other media outlet that chooses the influence of the industry.
I guess what I am saying is I am confused on some terminology and could someone (preferably the industry)clarify some things up for me.
What is a “professional” or some generic wording for sub categories, “profreshional” or “Brofessional”
What is an “expert”
What is an “ambassador”
What is a “role Model”
There are very few Davenport’s in the world that truly encompass all of the above.
This next one I have a really hard time with, What is a “big mountain skier”
If you win the snowbird or crested butte extreme comp does that make you a “big Mountain Expert” or “professional” Seems the industry thinks so and that might of been the biggest thing the industry may put emphasis on? Seems people with amazing skills are instantly deemed experts, but I was under the impression that Experience and Education is what ultimately may give you some expertise. I believe there is a big gray area for what all these terms really mean in the eyes of the industry and more importantly the next generation that is looking at these athletes as role models and heroes.
I would say for every 1 professional that truly is a sponsored athlete and gets paid for his craft, won a comp, or had a film segment, their are 100 more experts rubbing shoulders with that guy without sponsors and rocking duct tape gore-tex but don’t carry the same title. Seems to be the case in the Alps for the most part.
Do the Team Managers, Reps, Movies, Magazines take more into account of who their athletes really are? Or maybe what they do to promote education and awareness in addition to their skill sets and exposure. More importantly what their athletes are doing for their own professional development. What is the overall message your athletes convey? Or at the end of the day is it still all about who is selling product regardless of their actions and or attitudes? Is it their image that sells more then their person, is it their competition results more then their experience? I don’t know, too many variables, what ifs, what have you’s, ins and outs etc.
Once again, I am saddened to read this report, I would expect to read an accident report like that from a green 19 year old first year Colorado implant that skied off the pass in early November in a similar upside down, shallow, wind loaded, shit Sandwich snowpack that is all to common in Colorado. A scenario like this is tempting to the unsuspecting, uneducated, or inexperienced rider. But I would not not expect to read that report from someone like Jamie, who I didn’t know on a personal level, but who the industry has assured me was an “expert, professional, experienced big mountain skier”.
I am deeply saddened and baffled.
Dear industry, please step up and tell the real story when enough time has passed, Please shift to choosing ambassadors of the profession to represent and truly be role models, Please put an emphasis on athletes that choose to lead by example, choose to continue professional development, and choose to educate their fans in constructive and convincing ways. The learning curve for skill these days is exponential, but you can’t shorten the curve for experience and education.
Experience is not a substitute for education, and education is far from a substitute for experience. The bottom line is they compliment each other and you can’t have one without the other. They go together like fly’s in an outhouse.
Sincerely and with all due respect for Pierre’s family and their loss,
Joey V…thanks for your comment. It was extremely well thought out.
I wish I had all the answers to your questions…but I don’t. And I am as guilty as Jamie for making poor decisions in the face of obvious avalanche hazard, and I am not proud of them.
Though I did write that Jamie was a professional skier, I merely just wrote that because that is what the initial reports were saying. I have no idea what Jamie’s professional credentials were.
In my opinion, there are “Pros”, “Professional Skiers” and “Sponsored Skiers”.
Pros are people like ski guides, avy instructors, patrollers, etc. Basically people that work on their skis and may, or may not, have an affiliation with a brand.
Sponsored Skiers are dudes that can ski very well, and get varying amounts of free equipment and possibly some money for travel expenses, depending on the brand they are affiliated with. Most of these people still have jobs.
To me, a true “Professional Skier” is someone who actually gets a retainer check from a company to represent their brand as part of a yearly contract…not to mention tons of free gear and the opportunity to live the life of their dreams. Usually, they likely don’t have to hold a job…unless you call skiing a job.
I could be wrong, but that’s my view of things.
I think Steve nails it on this one with his story and comments. Yes, all those who say this is an avoidable accident are correct. And i further agree w/ Joey that there is something to learn here for both the “pros” and their admirers . But let’s face the paradox of backcountry skiing. In retrospect, ALL accidents are, by definition, avoidable. Yet NO ONE can 100% avoid accidents. And all of us have, or will, make poor quality decisions that may, or may not, lead to injury or death. if it leads to injury or death, people will pass all kinds of judgement on whether your skill failure was blatant or subtle – but really, the result is the same. Right? I think we should avoid kidding ourselves, and no real mountain person can – you are not still alive after 10 or 20 years in the hills because you are such a genius. Chances are very high that you have done some or many stupid things and are still here due to providence or luck depending on your worldview. Education and experience help a hell of a lot, and it is very foolish to forgo or undervalue them – but, as they say, when it comes down to it – it’s better to be lucky than good.
Thanks TGR and North Face for these amazing examples! Thanks newschoolers for sharing it on your platform!