By Tim Mutrie and Mike Rogge
Professional skier Jamie Pierre was killed in an avalanche accident today at Snowbird, Utah. Pierre was snowboarding with a friend in the resort’s South Chute area--though Snowbird is not yet open for the season--when he triggered the avalanche, according to officials with the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC).
Pierre, according to a preliminary report from the UAC, “was carried hundreds of feet through steep rocky terrain and reportedly went over a small cliff band and came to a stop only partially buried.” The accident was reported to authorities at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Pierre was 38 years old.
At least four other avalanches involving skiers/snowboarders ran today in Alta and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to the UAC. Alta, which is also not yet open for the season, has since closed to uphill traffic, the Utah Avalanche Center also reported on its Twitter account today.
A longtime fixture of the skiing scene, Pierre over the years filmed with Teton Gravity Research, Rage Films and Warren Miller Entertainment, and was renowned for his “go-for-broke” cliff hucking. He was the first skier to hit Little Cottonwood Canyon’s infamous Pyramid Gap, in May 1999, but he may be best known for his 255-foot cliff drop in the backcountry of Grand Targhee.
“He was a good dude,” Lee Cohen, a Powder senior photographer who lives at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, said by phone tonight. In a Facebook post, Cohen added, “A great person, a little misunderstood at times, but anyone who knew him knows he had a heart of gold.”
Pierre, who counted Snowbird among his sponsors, had recently relocated to Big Sky, Montana.
The Powder staff sends their condolences to the friends and family of Jamie Pierre.
Preliminary Report, in part, from the Utah Avalanche Center:
Accident & Rescue Info
Accident & Rescue Summary:
Hardesty and Kobernik plan to head to the accident site tomorrow (Monday 11/14) for the full investigation.
Two men in their 30s left the closed Alta ski area with the intent to ride the well known terrain of Alta and Snowbird. Neither ski areas are open yet and have yet to conduct any avalanche control within their boundaries. We interviewed the victim’s ski partner. While neither had any rescue gear or formal avalanche training, they were both expert skiers and new the terrain well. They continued to Snowbird via Baldy and accessed the Peruvian Cirque to gain the Gad Valley. Rescue reports indicated that they had likely triggered another slab avalanche prior to the victim triggering the fatal one. The partner did not recall hearing any collapses or whumphs in the snowpack, however.
With the partner watching, the victim dropped into the slope, immediately triggereing the slide. He was carried hundreds of feet through steep rocky terrain and reportedly went over a small cliff band and came to a stop only partially buried. The partner called for a rescue, alerting both the Snowbird Ski Patrol and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, who subsequently accessed and evacuated the victim.
This was in steep northwest facing terrain, terrain that no doubt held old rotten snow from October. The investigation will show more on Monday.
Weather & Avalanche History:
Collapsing of the snow pack occurred all week prior to the accident. There were two slab avalanches triggered early in the week and no less then 12 human triggered avalanches during the day of the accident. Over an inch of water weight was added to our weak pre existing snow, obviously too much weight for the snowpack to stay put with people on the steeper slopes.