A 29-year-old woman was seriously hurt in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday when the violent wave of snow carried her 1,500 feet down the Banana Couloir on Prospector’s Mountain.
She was one of a group of five people people skiing the top of the couloir at 10,800 feet elevation when they triggered an avalanche, according to a National Park Service report.
When the avalanche reached them, three skiers were able to self-arrest, a technique where they placed their body weight on top of an ice axe and drove it into the slope to prevent being carried away by the snow.
One man was caught and carried 500 feet before stopping. The fifth person, a 29-year-old local woman, was carried 1,500 vertical feet and sustained severe injuries, although the NPS reports none of the skiers were buried.
Three Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers boarded a helicopter to reach the Banana Couloir while the National Park Service sent an ambulance to the Windy Point Turnout along Teton Park Road, the NPS reports. The TCSAR volunteers were able to short-haul the injured skier off Prospector’s Mountain to the waiting ambulance.
The woman’s identity and current condition have not been released. The other four skiers who were with her were able to ski off the mountain without assistance.
According to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s Backcountry Avalanche Forecast, there is a “considerable” risk of avalanches in the Tetons. On Sunday, the avalanche risk at elevations above 9,500 feet was also “considerable.”
Avalanche risk changes based on elevation, with the danger often increasing at upper elevations. Recent heavy snowfall building the snowpack in the Tetons is increasing avalanche risk, especially at middle and upper elevations.
A Jan. 15 avalanche in Prater Canyon in the Salt River Range in Lincoln County killed 41-year-old David Rice of Alpine. He and a companion, both experienced skiers, were caught in an avalanche at 8,700 feet.
At that time, the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center categorized the snowpack as “extremely weak.” Rice was buried under 2 feet of snow for around 15 minutes and had already died by the time Star Valley Search and Rescue could get to his location.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.