Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-10
Submitted By: Bob Comey; BTAC
Place: Teton County, Hourglass Couloir, a Permanently Closed Area
State: WY
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 skiers caught, carried, 1 skier buried and killed

The fouth avalanche fatality of the season in Teton County, Wyoming

occured yesterday 2/10/03 at about 1 PM. Two local alpine skiers

triggered a slide in a steep dangerous avalanche path known as Hourglass

Couloir. This couloir is located in a permanently closed area of the

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The starting zone of this path is at an

elevation of 10,090 feet and faces east-northeast. Six to 12 inches of

new snow was measured at the upper study plots of the resort on the

morning of this incident. Strong southwest to northwest winds

accompanied this snowfall. The skiers triggered a soft slab with an

estimated crown depth of two feet. Both were caught and swept the

entire lenght of the slide path. One was buried two feet deep the other

was not buried and ended up upon the debris of the slide without

significant injury. A skier in the resort saw the unburied victum on

the debris and responded with a transciever, located the buried victum

and dug him out. Patrol response and CRP folllowed to no avail.

Bob Comey

Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center


Please visit:

Beacon fails in skier death

Friends say avalanche victim Steve Haas lived to ski.

By Bill Curran

Jackson Hole News&Guide

During the first five minutes skier Steve Haas was buried in the

avalanche that killed him Monday, his partner searched in vain with a

probe pole because his transceiver had broken.

The avalanche beacon of Tom Burlingame, Haas? partner, was destroyed in

the slide that swept the men down Hourglass Couloir and into Tensleep

Bowl at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, according to Burlingame?s

report to the Teton County Sheriff?s Office. Burlingame was joined about

five minutes into his search by a skier with a functional transceiver.

The third skier, Morgan Wion of Wilson, found Haas in seven minutes

using his beacon.

The two men spent the next 10 minutes digging Haas from under the three

to four feet of snow that covered him in Tensleep Bowl.

Burlingame, a Victor, Idaho, resident began CPR while Wion held Haas?

head, but it was too late.

Haas, 41, was dead from suffocation, having spent more than 20 minutes

under the snow, according to sheriff?s office reports.

Jackson Hole ski patrol took over CPR efforts and used a sled to

transport the victim to the resort medical clinic. An ambulance brought

him to St. John?s where he was pronounced dead.

Burlingame had little to say for this article about the event, offering

only one comment about his friend Haas. ?He was great guy and great

skier who made a mistake,? Burlingame said.

Haas and Burlingame triggered the avalanche in Hourglass Couloir, an

in-bounds but closed area at the Mountain Resort. Anna Olson, resort

spokeswoman, said a snow slab broke at about 12:45 p.m., sweeping the

men 600 vertical feet down the long, steep couloir and depositing them

in Tensleep Bowl, an open and frequently skied area below Hourglass.

The avalanche began after the Haas dropped into the couloir and while

the Burlingame was waiting and watching from above, Olson said. The

avalanched started above both skiers.

Burlingame rode the surface of the slide and survived with only minor


Hourglass Couloir is a ?very active and dangerous avalanche path,?

according to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center. The slide began at

about 10,100 feet above sea level on a wind-loaded north-east facing

slope with a pitch of about 40 degrees. The Mountain resort reported

that seven inches of new snow fell Sunday night.

Burlingame and Haas rode the Aerial Tram to the top of Rendezvous

Mountain and skied north of the tram dock along North Ridge to access

the closed Hourglass Couloir.

Haas was a member of Jackson Hole Air Force, a close-knit fraternity of

elite skiers known to challenge themselves with technical lines in

rough, cliff-riddled terrain.

Jackson Hole Ski patroller and friend Kirk Speckhals described Haas as

the ?ultimate ski bum? who lived for the slopes. ?He was the ski bums?

ski bum,? Speckhals said.

Haas enthusiasm was matched by boldness, knowledge and expertise. ?He

knew all the complexities of different areas [and] was a very good guide

in terms of finding the terrain and knowing how to get there and get

back,? Speckhals said. ?He had a very high level of confidence in

himself to ski a lot of steep couloirs and technical runs that a lot of

people would have shied away from.?

Friend Mike Back said he and other members of Haas? tight crew had

decided to only discuss their fallen friend amongst themselves.

Speckhals said Haas favorite ski run was ?Cowboys and Indians,? but

declined to reveal the location of the run.

Speckhals said he has known Haas for the approximately 15 years Haas has

lived in Jackson. The friends skied together for the last time a week

ago in Jensen Canyon, which is south of the resort. Speckhals said he

believes Haas moved to Jackson from New York.

Speckhals, who worked with Haas at Evans Construction, said his friend

had a strong work ethic. ?As a worker at Evans, he was willing to be the

first guy in,? Speckhals said. ?That?s what he did, he drove dump trucks

and he skied.?

Evans? Human Resources director Ben Graham said that Haas worked for the

company each summer from 1993-2001, often working 50 hours per week from

April until November. ?It worked out well that he liked to ski so much

because our business slows down in the winter so that we don?t need as

many workers.?

Graham remembered Haas as a hard worker who always had a smile on his

face. ?He was a good worker who was dependable, hard working and got

along well with the other employees,? Graham said. ?Everyone here had

nothing but good things to say about him.?

Ski photographer Wade McKoy, a longtime acquaintance, said it was

evident how much joy Haas derived from skiing. ?He always had a smile on

his face and you always saw him in the tram line or out on the hill. He

skied every day,? McKoy said. ?It was great to cross paths with him

because he had a really positive attitude about skiing.?

Speckhals added Haas passion for skiing was not tainted by ulterior

motives. ?He didn?t ski for the cameras; he didn?t ski to brag in the


McKoy photographed Haas several times over the years but not for the ski

magazines. ?He?d be passing by and he?d ask me for a shot so he could

send them to his mom,? McKoy said.

Jerry Blann, mountain resort president, offered condolences to Haas?

family in a prepared statement that also detailed the resort?s policy on

closed areas. ?We permanently close certain areas for obvious reasons

including reducing the risk to guests skiing or snowboarding below. Our

ski patrol conducted a dog and transceiver search of the debris to

ensure no other skier or snowboarder had been unwillingly caught,? Blann

said. ?Although we are always saddened to see loss of life at the resort

and our thoughts are with the family of the deceased, the actions of

these two skiers cannot be condoned in any way.?

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center rated avalanche danger at upper

elevations Monday as ?considerable,? which means ?dangerous unstable

slabs exist on steep terrain on certain aspects? and ?human triggered

avalanches probable.?

At the upper elevations, new soft slabs to two feet in depth exist on

steep avalanche prone slopes, according to the center. These slabs

easily could be human triggered and have the potential to pull out

deeper layers of recent snow in rocky areas and near cliff edges.

The avalanche report is available at or by calling


Monday?s death is the fourth avalanche fatality in Teton County this

season and the fifth in Wyoming.

Teton County Search and Rescue on Feb. 1 found the body of a 27-year-old

Jackson snowboarder in avalanche debris in a gully on Teton Pass. He was

buried in the last week of January beneath Avalanche Bowl.

On Jan. 25, a Michigan snowmobiler died on Togwotee Pass. The county?s

first fatality was Jan. 5, when a French snowboarder died of trauma on

the north side of Teton Pass.

-Michael Pearlman contributed to this story.