Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Bob Comey; BTNFAC
Place: Rock Springs area, South of the Jackson
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed
The body of a male alpine skier who was reported missing overnight was
recovered this morning (2/7/01) from the toe of an avalanche which
occured late in the afternoon on 2/6/01. This incident occured in the
upper portion of the Rock Springs drainage just south of the Jackson
Hole Mountain Resort in the Teton Range of Wyoming. The victim
apparently triggered a soft slab estimated to be 18 inches in depth and
was swept over a large cliff and onto a snow apron below the cliff. This
event triggered a four foot slab on the apron. The victims ski boot was
found protruding from the debris. His head was buried 2 to 3 feet below
the surface. The estimated total vertical drop of this slide is 500
feet. The southerly facing start zone was at an elevation of 9,800 feet.
This prelimanary information is being provided by Bob Comey of the
Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Center located in Teton Village,
Avalanche claims Oregon skier
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
Jackson Hole News
Searchers found the body of an Oregon skier in avalanche debris in Upper
Rock Springs Bowl near the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Wednesday morning.
Teton County Sheriff Bob Zimmer identified the victim as Ralph Toscano Jr.,
43, of Mosier, Ore. He is the fourth avalanche victim in Teton County this
As ski patrollers and a county search volunteer recovered Toscano's body,
officials began to investigate a separate report of three other missing
skiers. Their friend reported Wednesday that they did not return to the
group's motel Tuesday night.
Grand Teton National Park launched a preliminary search for the three in
Granite Canyon, north of the resort, Wednesday evening, following a lead
picked up during the search for Toscano. Observers in a helicopter saw
three ski tracks entering Granite Canyon when they were looking for the
"We're in the early stages of starting a search to see if we can find three
people in the backcountry." Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Joan
Anzelmo said Wednesday.
Sheriff Zimmer said that the avalanche victim, Toscano, had apparently left
the patrolled ski-area boundary sometime late Tuesday afternoon.
Investigator Lindsey Moss said the skier almost certainly would have had to
knowingly cross a boundary rope or exit through a marked gate. He said it
was snowing lightly at the time Toscano likely left the area.
The victim was to meet friends at the Mangy Moose Saloon that evening.
When he did not show up at the Rawhide Motel at about 7 p.m., friends
Ski area groomers kept an eye out for Toscano that night and a search was
launched Wednesday morning, Zimmer said. Observers in a helicopter
discovered signs of a small slide in Rock Springs Bowl, plus the three
tracks into Granite.
Resort ski patrollers who went into Rock Springs to the debris pile saw a
boot protruding from it. Toscano's body was dug free and flown from the
scene, Zimmer said.
Investigator Moss and resort spokeswoman Anna Olson said it appeared that
Toscano was skiing above a cliff band that is broken by Zero G, Spacewalk
and M & M couloirs. Apparently he provoked a slide approximately a foot
deep which carried him over a 100-foot cliff, then over another, smaller
Searchers found his body near the bottom of M & M couloir, Olson said. He
was carried approximately 400 vertical feet. The slide crown was some 75
yards long. Deposition piled up approximately 12 feet deep at the base of
Toscano is the fifth person involved in avalanches in the Rock Springs
drainage in four days. The other four survived uninjured.
The skier chose to go into the backcountry on a day when the avalanche
danger was rated as "high" by the Bridger-Teton National Forest backcountry
forecast center. The rating indicates that unstable snow predominates,
that natural avalanches are likely, and that travel in avalanche terrain is
ill-advised. The daily report is available at 733-2664 or at
untracked.com/forecast on the Web.
Olson expressed regret at the incident.
"Obviously we're very sad for the victim's family and friends," she said.
"We re-emphasize everybody needs to follow the codes of the backcountry -
ski with people, know the terrain, know the conditions that exist, and
carry a Pieps."
Zimmer said Toscano's death is the ninth winter recreation fatality in
Teton County this season. In addition to the three other avalanche deaths,
there have been three snowmobilers killed and two skiers have died in
collisions with trees.
"This is the worst winter for winter accidents that anybody in this office
can recall," Zimmer said. "We have taken major steps in the area of
informing the public that this is an extremely dangerous winter for
"I think our three ski resorts - those areas are fine to ski in," Zimmer
said. "But the areas outside in the wilderness and backcountry are
"We've warned people for the last two months," Zimmer said. "It appears
that because of the excitement of skiing in these backcountry areas, the
appropriate amount of caution is not being utilized."