January 26, 2009
Grand Teton National Park rangers and two Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrollers conducted a search and rescue operation for two stranded skiers in the backcountry of Granite Canyon on Monday, January 26. Chris Buechley, age 29, and Dan Myers, age 27, both residents of Jackson, Wyoming, took a wrong turn after exiting an out-of-bounds gate at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort around
2 p.m. on Sunday January 25, and spent an unexpected night in the mountains without adequate clothing or shelter. Buechley and Myers were located in good physical condition at about 12 noon on Monday, and they were safely escorted out of the Teton canyon by rescue personnel.
Buechley and Myers intended to ski into Rock Springs Bowl on Sunday afternoon, January 25. They exited the second out-of-bounds gate at the top of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but turned north and entered Granite Canyon instead of turning south where they had planned to ski. They did not realize that they were off course, and stranded, until after they had traveled some distance into Grand Teton’s backcountry. When darkness overtook them, they tried to camp for the night; however, they did not have extra clothing, or basic emergency gear, to use in warming themselves, so they decided to continue moving when they became too cold. As they were following Granite Creek downstream, Buechley fell through a thin bridge of snow and landed in knee deep water. In addition to getting wet, Buechley lost one ski in the process of scrambling out of the streambed, which hampered his ability to continue skiing. The two men used their cell phone about 6:30 on Monday morning to make a 911 call for help, and that call was received by a Teton County dispatcher. Buechley and Myers reported that they were stranded somewhere south of the ski resort because they still believed that they had skied toward Rock Springs Bowl; however, a GPS locator on the cell phone pinpointed their position as being in Granite Canyon within Grand Teton National Park — several miles north of where they claimed to be. Shortly after making their emergency call, the cell phone lost service. Teton County dispatch alerted park rangers of the situation and a search and rescue operation was initiated.
Two park rangers used a snowmobile to access the Granite Canyon trailhead from park headquarters in Moose; rangers then positioned their snowmobiles on the valley floor and began to ski into the canyon. Meanwhile, patrol staff from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort skied into Granite Canyon from the summit of Rendezvous Mountain to search the upper reaches of Granite Canyon. Both rescue parties reached the stranded skiers about 12 noon and provided Buechley with a spare ski to assist him in skiing out. The two men were located about two miles west of the mouth of Granite Canyon.
Backcountry users are cautioned to be prepared with the knowledge, skills, and emergency equipment necessary to safely recreate in the park’s backcountry areas before attempting a winter excursion. Park rangers also remind backcountry users to pay special attention to avalanche and weather conditions before entering remote areas outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundaries.