Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Doug Chabot; GNFAC
Place: South of Flathead Pass; Bridger Mtns.
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed
On Wednesday, April 4th, 2001, a party of three skiers went to Flathead Pass in the northern Bridger's and triggered a slide that resulted in one fatality.
By snowmobiling and skiing they reached the ridgetop in early afternoon and traversed north kicking off cornices without any results. They skied off the ridge one at a time down an open slope with an approximate angle of 35-40 degrees. With one skier near the bottom of the slope and the other near the middle, the victim triggered the avalanche near the top. Both the lower two skiers heard and felt a huge "boom" and saw a dust cloud approaching. Although they were in relatively safe spots they wisely traversed further away as the slide passed.
One skier immediately turned his transceiver on to receive and yelled for his partner to turn his off so he could do a search. The partner responded that the victim wasn't wearing one. One skier then went down to initiate a rescue while the other stayed at the scene to do a search.
His search began with him entering the debris and post holing uphill to the victims last seen point where a ski pole was located. He then began working his way downhill following the probable trajectory of the victim. Near the bottom of the debris he found a ski tip sticking out. He then probed to locate the exact position of the victim and started digging. The victim's head was about 2 feet under the snow surface, slightly sitting up with no obvious trauma to his body. CPR was attempted but proved futile as it was estimated that close to an hour had passed since the burial.
Scott, myself and a search dog, were helicoptered to the scene as the victim was still being dug out. After determining the victim was deceased we extricated him. The victim and his partner were then flown from the site.
From the burial site we got a good visual of the avalanche path. It's estimated to be about 4-500 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and ran 4-500 feet vertical.
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center