Rangers Rescue Stranded Skier in Grand Teton National Park

by Amy Myers

Spring may have arrived, but for many of our western national parks, ski season is still alive and well, and with more skiers come more rescues. On Thursday, park rangers at the Grand Teton National Park, as well as Teton County Search and Rescue, responded to a call regarding a stranded skier somewhere on the East Prong of Mount Owen.

According to the national park, an unnamed 27-year-old local solo skied a couloir on Disappointment Peak. Afterward, he continued up to the Koven Couloir on Mount Owen. The backcountry enthusiast planned on skiing down the mountain, but when he reached the top, he decided to change his plans. Instead of going down the Koven Couloir, the skier wanted to instead attempt the Cathedral Traverse in reverse. This meant that he would start at the top of Koven Coulier and ski towards Mount Teewinot.

The man managed to climb the East Prong, but during this time, he realized that he couldn’t, in fact, complete the course in reverse because of the technical challenges it posed. Not to mention, he didn’t have the proper equipment, like a rope. When he reached the top of East Prong, weather conditions became severe. Soon enough, there was a whiteout, and the man lost his sense of location.

That’s when the stranded skier called the Grand Teton dispatch center.

Stranded Skier Digs Himself a Snow Cave to Wait out the Evening in Grand Teton National Park

Thankfully, even though the stranded skier lost his bearings, he had the know-how to survive in a life-threatening situation. During the call with dispatch, the man reported that he had created a shelter to stay in overnight until authorities could arrive.

“Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call around 7:30 p.m,” the official press release read. “Thursday evening from the backcountry skier who reported he was unable to make it out of the mountains due to whiteout conditions. Park dispatch put the man in touch with a Jenny Lake climbing ranger to discuss his situation and plan accordingly. The man told the ranger he had dug a snow cave on top of the East Prong and would stay in it overnight. He planned to wake up the next morning and make his way down once visibility improved.”

According to the national park, the mountains saw over a foot of snow during the night, only adding to the danger. Friday morning, around 6:30 a.m., the skier sent a text message to dispatch alerting them that he was alive. Unfortunately, though, authorities had to tell him that it was too unsafe for the rescue mission to continue at the moment. Four hours later, they could finally proceed.

At roughly 10:30 a.m., park rangers and TCSAR jointly responded in the TCSAR helicopter to locate the man. They short-hauled him out of the area to Jenny Lake Rescue Cache where they determined he was uninjured and able to self-transport.