A group of skiers were taking turns entering a narrow area in Grand Teton National Park on Monday when an avalanche began to sweep the mountain, park officials said.
The group of three Wyoming residents were skiing the Broken Thumb Corridor, a narrow and dangerous part of the mountain that winds through cliffs. They were entering the area one at a time, park officials said.
“Matthew Brien, a 33-year-old resident of Jackson, Wyoming, was leading the group, entering the narrow area of the corridor above rappels when an avalanche occurred,” park officials said in a report. Press release. “The avalanche was up to two feet deep and fractured 50 to 100 feet above Brien, sweeping him over the abseil and descent for about 1,000 feet.
Brien’s close friends called for help and reported the incident to the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center, park officials said. The skiers also called two friends who were skiing nearby.
The group searched for Brien and found him partially buried. They were able to pull him out of snow and debris to give him CPR, park officials said.
“The Teton County search and rescue helicopter with park rangers immediately responded with aerial reconnaissance to determine if a short range rescue would be an option,” park officials said. “Due to the gusts of wind, the short haul was not possible. The helicopter landed on Taggart Lake and rescue personnel skied at the scene.
Rescue officials determined that Brien died at the scene after suffering significant trauma. His body was taken to the Teton County Coroner.
The rest of the skiers were able to exit the area safely, park officials said.
“The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center issued a considerable avalanche danger rating for altitudes above 7,500 feet today for the Teton area,” park officials said Monday. “Recent snow and wind events have created dangerous conditions in the hinterland. Very careful route finding and expert snowpack assessment skills are essential for safe travel in avalanche terrain.
In a typical year, avalanches kill between 25 and 30 people each winter in the United States, the American Avalanche Association has said.
During the 2020-2021 season, at least 32 people have died from avalanches since December, according to the American Avalanche Association. Nearly 25 of these people died in avalanches in February.
“Some days are dangerous and some days are not,” the Avalanche Association said on its website. “Learning about avalanches will help you decide when, where and how to visit the backcountry.”