‘It’s gonna slide somewhere’: Tetons enter busiest search & rescue time of the year

Since the recent storm, the volunteer search & rescue team has already been swamped responding to backcountry incidents.
The south face of Taylor Mountain slid Jan. 30, after a skier triggered a shallow part of the snowpack. (Courtesy of Teton County Search & Rescue)

by | Feb 1, 2023 | Avalanches


The recent storm that pelted the region has made it more dangerous for skiers in the Tetons, with multiple near misses in the backcountry in the last few days. 

The south face of Teton Pass’s Taylor Mountain slid on Monday. A solo skier triggered the large Taylor avalanche, but neither the skier — nor people below — got caught in the slide.

Others haven’t been so lucky: The same area was the site of a 2020 avalanche, which buried and killed 28-year-old snowboarder Trace Carillo. 

The avalanche path funnels into the Coal Creek drainage and carries the risk of burying others who may be hiking or skiing below. Matt Hansen, with the Teton County Search & Rescue Foundation, said this year’s slide is just one example of what can happen with a new layer of snow.


“Even though it’s just blue bird, powder days, if you put a bunch of new snow on older snow, it’s gonna probably slide somewhere,” Hansen said.

‘Powder fever’

Teton County Search & Rescue rescued two lost skiers in the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort backcountry on Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Teton County Search & Rescue)

The avalanche was just one of several slides in the last week, in addition to other types of incidents. Over the weekend, the search & rescue team aided two Utah skiers who got lost when they left the gates at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and entered the backcountry.

They intended to ski Rock Springs but ended up going the opposite direction into Granite Canyon — an avalanche-prone area that leads down into Grand Teton National Park.

On the way down the ridge, one of the skiers told me, ‘they were overcome by powder fever’ and ended up skiing some low-angled powder,” Hansen said.

Lost for hours, the skiers were later able to call one of their friends. The call dropped, but — thanks to that call — the rescue team was able to pinpoint the skiers and rescue them a little after midnight.

Safety first

Although at least one of the skiers was familiar with the terrain, they had left the resort’s gates without avalanche safety gear: a beacon, shovel and probe.

Hansen encourages anyone venturing in the backcountry to bring the proper equipment and invest in education around avalanches. This is especially critical, he said, as the search & rescue team enters its busiest time of the year.

“As the snow piles up, people start to venture into the backcountry,” Hansen said. “We know that when it snows a lot, the team sees more rescues.”

As search & rescue gets jammed with calls, Hansen said all mountain-goers should sharpen their skills.

Headwall Sports will offer a free discussion on the state of the snowpack at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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