Detailed Accident Report

Back to accidents page

Date: 2001-02-23
Submitted By: BTNF Avalanche Center
Place: Granite Canyon; Grand Teton National Park
State: WY
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed.

Granite avalanche kills

season's fifth victim.

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Jackson Hole News

Grand Teton National Park rangers on Saturday recovered the body of

24-year-old ski instructor Allen Wagner from an avalanche site on the back

side of Apres Vous Mountain.

Wagner died in the avalanche Friday after he apparently set it off at about

4:15 p.m. The slide carried him over a 40 foot cliff and some 500 feet

down the slope where he was buried three feet deep, park officials said.

He is the fifth avalanche victim in Teton County this season, the 26th in

North America. Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche forecasters have

warned all winter of suspect layers in the snowpack and have logged dozens

of observations of skier-released avalanches in the mountains around

Jackson Hole.

Wagner, originally from Boulder, Colo, and friends Zach Giffen, Jeff Giffin

and Torrey Rodgers, all in their early 20s, left the Jackson Hole Mountain

Resort from the Apres Vous lift at 4 p.m. to start their excursion. A

preliminary report by the BTNF forecast center noted that there is no

regular gate in the ski area boundary where the four left the resort.

The group intended to ski a steep 200-foot chute near Caledonia Couloir.

Wagner approached the chute a different way than his friends and apparently

provoked the avalanche.

In its preliminary report to the Westwide Avalanche Network, the local

avalanche center said a small slide provoked a deeper fracture - about two

feet deep - that carried Wagner down the side of the canyon. The incident

occurred on a north-facing slope at about 8,000 feet on a day when the

danger was rated at "considerable." "Considerable" danger indicates a

condition when human-triggered avalanches are probable. There had been 3

inches of new snow in the previous 24 hours, 15 inches in the previous

three days.

The slide stopped at Granite Creek, close to Jeff Giffin who had skied down

first. He turned his avalanche transciever to "search" and quickly got a

strong signal from Wagner's transciever, park officials said.

Zach Giffin arrived at the scene and hit Wagner with his first probe into

the snow. Friends freed Wagner's face of snow in five minutes, but it took

another 15 to free his body to the point they could begin rescue breathing,

park officials said. One of the party skied out to notify the ski patrol,

who learned of the incident at 5 p.m.

The park launched a helicopter and the Mountain Resort dispatched four ski

patrollers to the scene. The helicopter had to retreat in the face of

darkness, but the ski patrol reached the scene at 6:30 p.m. Patrollers

continued resuscitation efforts with an electronic defibrillator and

oxygen, without success.

The skiers left the canyon that evening and Wagner's body was flown out

Saturday morning.

The park used the incident to remind backcountry users of the grim

statistics regarding avalanche survival and death. Among avalanche victims

who are buried less than a meter deep and uncovered within 15 minutes, 20

percent still die.

"This tragedy reinforces repeated safety messages, which have been

emphasized throughtout this winter," the park said. "Avalanche danger

remains 'considerable' to 'high.' Backcountry skiers need to know the

terrain they are traveling in and be prepared for all types of winter

emergencies, including the possibility of a life-threatening accident.

Further, backcountry skiers need to understand there is no guarantee of


To receive the daily avalanche report, call 307 733 2664 or log onto

A 22 year male skier became the fifth local avalanche fatality of the season yesterday, February 23, 2001. The victim is

believed to have triggered a small slab which swept him over some cliffs. This event then triggered a slab on the snow

apron beneath the cliff believed to be two feet in depth. The victim was wearing a transciever and is reported to have been

located by his partners within five minutes at a depth of three feet in the toe of the debris. Attempts at resuscitation were


This incident occured in a steep cliffy area on a northerly aspect in Granite Canyon in Grand Teton National Park in Teton

County, Wyoming. The victim and his party accessed this area from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, however there is

not a backcountry access gate at this location. The starting zone of this incident is suspected to be at an elevation of 8,000

feet. This infromation is provided by the Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Center and is preliminary.