JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Sometimes there is more to the story. Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot more to say. But the story is never really complete until everyone involved has had a say. Then we can all digest what we know and continue the discourse.
Rather than hate and speculate, let’s hear from the person that started the avalanche that closed the Pass yesterday. From there we can move on and have a civil conversation. Or not. But truth, honesty—stuff like that—is never a bad starting point.
My name is Jeff Brines. I was involved in the avalanche near Twin Slide [yesterday]. My objective was a run called “Boot Pack Trees,” and I knew the rating was considerable prior to hiking.
I clicked into my skis about two-thirds of the way up near the area known as the “rock scramble” with two other skiers also choosing to click in at this point. I chose to ski from this point to avoid sustained higher angle terrain above me.
From here I moved toward the skier’s left of this “bench” off the bootpack, dog still in my arms, to assess what was below and try to find a clean way back into the trees to my right to the bench about 40 feet below.
About 5 vertical feet below the rock scramble and about 20 feet to the left of the bootpack, I began to perform a kick turn back toward the bootpack when I heard the sound of snow moving behind me. Moving left to right, I looked behind me and noticed a small slab of snow had started sliding skier’s left of me.
Again, I was moving back toward the bootpack. At this point I stopped my momentum, pivoted my body back to the left to observe what was happening. A smaller pocket of snow that had released to the left and above me began to propagate further out.
I watched while I tried to quiet down my dog to watch the slide run, which had appeared to stop about 100 feet from my position. Shaken, standing on bed surface just off the bootpack I could see a small crown, 7-8″ in depth skier’s left of where I first began to make my kick turn. It appeared a small release from this point remotely triggered the entire slide path, with a much bigger crown (16″?).
I picked up my dog and moved down boot pack trees, exiting the mountain just NW of the parking lot. When I arrived at the bottom, I realized the avalanche had crossed the road. I asked two bystanders walking back from the avalanche if any vehicle was caught to which they said, “Nobody was in it but there is 6 feet of snow on the road.”
Physically shaking, I was incredibly grateful nobody was caught. I drove back down the West side of the pass to make way for WYDOT/additional authorities. I am again incredibly thankful nobody was hurt, or worse. As I noted above, this was a wildly humbling experience, and one I will heed with great respect for the rest of my life.
Despite my intent to stay close to the bootpack, in more anchored and lower angled terrain, I still put myself, and more importantly, others in harm’s way. I sincerely apologize and hope everyone has a safe and happy winter.