Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2004-01-31
Submitted By: BTNFAC
Place: Teton Range, Peak 9,870 (The Pyramid)
State: WY
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 backcountry skier caught buried and killed

Local resident and avid backcountry skier Ray Azar died in an avalanche Saturday January 31, 2004. Ray was backcountry skiing by himself when he triggered a large soft slab avalanche on a southeast aspect of Peak 9,870. This peak is located on the eastern front of the southern Teton Range between Teton Pass and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton County, Wyoming. It is the eastern point of the hydrologic divide between Jensen Canyon and the North Fork of Phillips Canyon. It is known locally as the Pyramid.

A large dust cloud from the avalanche was observed at approximately 1:45 PM by a local skier from an office in the valley. Binoculars were used to see a single ski track leading into the crown. Calls were made to Teton County Search & Rescue and the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center.

A soft slab avalanche carried Ray approximately 1,500 to 1,700 feet downhill. The crown of the avalanche was estimated to be three to four in depth and was triggered at an elevation of approximately 8,900 feet in the well defined starting zone of an avalanche path. Two other backcountry skiers in the area came across the slide, observed the single track leading into the crown and began a search for Ray. Rays body was located with a transceiver beneath three feet of debris.

The general avalanche hazard was rated as considerable. Fifty inches of snow with approximately 3.5 inches of moisture had fallen in the six days leading up to this incident. Strong southwest and west winds had formed soft and hard slabs on a weak layer of buried surface hoar and suncrust which developed during an extended period of dry weather in January. Ray was an experienced backcountry skier who frequented this avalanche path.