Ski group sees its leader swept off mountain by avalanche, Grand Teton officials say
A group of skiers took turns entering a narrow area of Grand Teton National Park on Monday when an avalanche swept through the mountain, park officials said.
The group of three Wyoming locals were skiing the Broken Thumb Couloir, a narrow and dangerous section of the mountain that winds through cliffs. They entered the area one at a time, park officials said.
"Matthew Brien, a 33-year-old Jackson, Wyoming resident, was leading the group and stepping into the narrow area of the couloir above the rappelling when an avalanche occurred," park officials said in a press release. "The avalanche was up to two feet deep and broke 50 to 100 feet over Brien and swept him about 1,000 feet over the rappel and incline."
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Brien's friends nearby called for help and reported the incident to the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center. The skiers also called two friends who were skiing nearby.
The group searched for Brien and found him partially buried. They were able to remove him from the snow and rubble to give him CPR, park officials said.
"Teton County's search and rescue helicopter with park rangers responded immediately with aerial reconnaissance to determine if a short-range rescue was an option," park officials said. “A short distance was not possible due to gusty winds. The helicopter landed on Taggart Lake and rescue workers drove to the scene. "
Rescue workers found that Brien was dead after suffering severe trauma at the scene. His body was taken to the Teton County Coroner.
The other skiers could safely get out of the area, park officials said.
"The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center today released a sizable avalanche hazard assessment for the Teton area for altitudes above 7,500 feet," park officials said Monday. “The recent snow and wind events have created dangerous conditions in the hinterland. A very careful route finding and expert skills in assessing the snow cover are a basic requirement for safe travel in avalanche areas. "
In a typical year, avalanches kill between 25 and 30 people each winter in the United States, according to the American Avalanche Association.
In the 2020-2021 season, at least 32 people have died from avalanches since December, according to the American Avalanche Association. Almost 25 of these people died in avalanches in February.
"Some days are dangerous and others are not," said the avalanche association on its website. "When you learn more about avalanches, you can decide when, where and how to visit the hinterland."
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