Skier falls off broken cornice, triggers slide at Targhee resort


JACKSON (WNE) — The owner of Grand Targhee Resort called a skier “careless” after the 27-year-old Washington man left the resort boundary and triggered a slab avalanche Wednesday when a cornice broke underneath him near Mary’s Nipple.

Targhee owner Geordie Gillett said the skier was just below the summit when the cornice gave way. He fell about 100 feet into the basin below.

“When he hit, he triggered an avalanche 2 feet deep and 30 feet wide that carried him down over a cliff,” Gillett said.

After falling about 50 feet over the second cliff, the man became partially buried. He hit a few spots of luck on the way down: His airway was not obstructed by debris, and an off-duty ski patroller was nearby to dig him out quickly. The Washington skier suffered two broken legs.

The weather was clear enough for the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter to respond. Targhee ski patrollers were able to prepare the skier for short-haul — a method where rescuers and a patient are transported via a long line beneath the helicopter — to an ambulance at the base of the resort. Gillett said the operation was completed within about 90 minutes of the initial call for service.

Gillett said the man wasn’t wearing a helmet and didn’t have avalanche gear. He added that the avalanche put people recreating in the Steve Baugh Bowl area at risk.

“If this had happened two weeks ago, the likelihood of a bigger avalanche would’ve been prominent,” he said. “This guy’s actions put probably more than 10 people in a dangerous situation.”

Gillett said it’s “unclear” what the skier was trying to do after leaving the backcountry gate. Many signs cautioning cornice danger were ignored, Gillett said.