Skier Dies in Avalanche on South Teton

Summit of South Teton (left peak) in wispy clouds
February 22, 2010
A backcountry skier triggered an avalanche on the South Teton that swept him to his death on Sunday morning, February 21, 2010 in Grand Teton National Park. Wray Landon, age 30, of Driggs, Idaho skied with two companions to the summit of the South Teton via Garnet Canyon and the Northwest Couloir early Sunday morning; they were descending the southeast face of the peak when Landon set off a two-foot crown avalanche, approximately 300 feet below the 12,514-foot summit. The avalanche carried Landon over 2,000 vertical feet of slope and cliff bands before he came to a rest about a thousand feet above Lake Taminah in upper Avalanche Canyon; the avalanche debris continued about 800 feet further before stopping. Landon and his companions were experienced with backcountry travel in the Teton Range and prepared with the appropriate equipment for a mountain excursion.

Landon’s ski companions, Nathan Brown and Brady Johnston, made a 911 call to report the incident at 11:35 a.m., and Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notice from the Teton County Sheriff’s office shortly after. Park rangers immediately summoned the Teton County Search and Rescue contract helicopter to assist with the rescue operation. An aerial reconnaissance flight was conducted at 1:15 p.m. during which rangers were able to determine that Landon was deceased, although not buried by the avalanche debris.

In order to reach Landon—who was lying in an exposed avalanche-prone area—four rangers were flown via helicopter to a landing zone near Snowdrift Lake (elevation 10,006 feet) from which a recovery operation could be staged. Three Teton County Search and Rescue personnel were flown into the location, and they conducted aerial avalanche control using explosives to stabilize slopes above the route rangers intended to ski in order to reach Landon. After the avalanche control work was completed, four rangers traversed a steep slope below an area of cliff bands and couloirs. While two rangers acted as safety spotters, watching for additional avalanche activity, two rangers prepared Landon for aerial evacuation. Landon was airlifted by a long-line to the valley floor at 4:45 p.m.

Landon’s two companions skied out of the backcountry on their own and the rescue personnel were evacuated by air, completing their operation at 5:30 p.m.

The avalanche condition rating for Sunday, February 21 was listed as “moderate” for mid level and high elevations, below 10,500 feet. The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center does not forecast areas above 10,500 feet, and park rangers remind skiers and climbers that conditions on the higher peaks can be vastly different above the Bridger-Teton forecast zone.

A moderate rating means that areas of unstable snow exist, and human triggered avalanches are possible. The general avalanche advisory warns that pockets of dense surface slab up to thirty inches deep rest upon buried surface hoar and sun crusts at the mid and upper elevations, and the possibility persists for backcountry travelers to trigger these slabs in steep, avalanche-prone terrain.

Park Offers Ranger-led “Snow Moon” Walk

February's mantle of snow creates a "grand" winter wonderland
February 19, 2010
Grand Teton National Park ranger naturalists once again invite visitors and local residents to join them for a snowshoe walk in the park by full moon. This winter excursion will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, February 27, from the Taggart Lake trailhead located three miles north of the Moose entrance station. The full moon walk offers a chance to experience the winter wonderland of Grand Teton and learn about the unique characteristics that make this season so incredible.

Throughout history, native peoples have used descriptive names for full moon cycles in order to keep track of the seasons of the year. Since the heaviest snow usually falls in February, American Indian tribes—from what is now the northern and eastern United States—called February’s moon, the “full snow moon.” Some tribes also referred to the February moon as the “full hunger moon” since harsh weather conditions made hunting difficult and food scarce. In recognition of this ancient tradition, rangers have dubbed this snowshoe activity, the “snow moon” walk.

For thousands of years, people have used snowshoes as a means of winter travel. Ranger-led snowshoe excursions are designed to introduce beginning and casual snowshoe walkers to the experience of a winter trek in the park in the company of others. The snowshoe walk traverses a level, three-mile roundtrip distance along the snow-covered Teton Park Road. The two-hour-long activity does not require previous snowshoeing experience, and snowshoes are provided for anyone without their own. Please arrive 15 minutes early in order to select and don a pair of snowshoes.

Those attending should wear warm layered clothing, sturdy insulated boots, and a face scarf or ski mask, plus bring along an energy snack and water, or hot beverage in a thermos. Although headlamps and flashlights will not be needed, these items are recommended as essential safety equipment for any outdoor trek. Reservations are required; call 307.739.3399 to reserve a spot.

For a complete list of ranger-led activities and programs, please refer to the park’s newspaper, Teewinot, online at, or call the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at 307.739.3399.

Prospectus Issued for Concessions Contract

Signal Mountain Lodge Complex on the Shore of Jackson Lake
February 10, 2010
The National Park Service (NPS) has issued a prospectus soliciting proposals to provide lodging, food and beverage, retail, marinas, camping and other services in Grand Teton National Park. The concession contract will be valid for 15 years. The NPS has determined that no preferred offeror for this contract exists pursuant to the terms of 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 51; therefore, this solicitation for commercial services is fully competitive.

The existing concession operation provides lodging, food and beverage service, retail, marinas, camping and other services at the Signal Mountain Lodge and Leeks Marina areas within Grand Teton National Park, in northwest Wyoming. The concession facilities are concentrated in three primary areas and located between 30 to 45 miles north of the town of Jackson. The contract is currently held by Rex G. and Ruth G. Maughan.

There are many unique attributes to this concession contract that could potentially affect the operation; these include a significant amount of deferred maintenance, fluctuating water levels on Jackson Lake, a compressed operating season, and a high cost of doing business in the area. Any offeror for the contract will need to take into account these factors.

Prospectus packages are available by contacting Jacque Lavelle, Intermountain Region chief of concessions, at 303.969.2661, or by email at Interested parties may also write to National Park Service, Concessions Management Division, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, Denver, CO 80228. The cost for a copy of the prospectus is $35.00 per copy, if delivered by Federal Express, or $30.00 if picked up in person. Checks and money orders (no cash accepted) must be payable to the National Park Service, and a physical address and phone number must be provided to receive a Federal Express package.

A prospectus package is also available online at Those planning to submit a proposal, who have obtained a prospectus from the Web site, should provide contact information to Jacque Lavelle in order to receive future responses to questions or amendments to the prospectus. Those requesting a hard copy, or who have been placed on the mailing list, will be provided with additional information specific to the prospectus. Information relative to the solicitation will also be posted to the above mentioned concessions Web site.

Contract offers must be received no later than 4 p.m. MST on Monday, May 10, 2010 by the Chief of Concessions, National Park Service, Intermountain Region, 12795 W. Alameda Parkway, Lakewood, CO 80228.

Assessment of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Caution sign for wildlife-vehicle collision awareness

Pronghorn antelope killed by vehicle on Grand Teton roadway
February 8, 2010
Each year, Grand Teton National Park collects comprehensive data on the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions occurring on park roads. This information is used to examine trends and patterns in an effort to make park roads safer for both humans and wildlife. Four years ago, Grand Teton initiated a proactive education/ prevention campaign to reduce the apparent growing number of collisions and associated animal mortalities. Despite a determined effort to educate and alert motorists about wildlife on roads, the number of these incidents appears to be fairly consistent from year to year. In fact, park officials believe that the tally is likely higher than the numbers indicate, because some collisions are not reported, particularly when smaller animals are involved.

Wildlife-vehicle collision statistics for the past five years reveal that an average of 33 deer, 38 elk, ten bison, seven moose, three pronghorn, two bears and one wolf are killed each year on park roads. In addition, a host of smaller animals such as foxes, porcupines, beavers, marmots, pine martens, sage grouse, and owls die each year as a result of collisions with automobiles. The data suggests that vehicle speed, time of day (e.g. dusk, dawn, and nighttime), and specific location (e.g. the Gros Ventre junction and adjacent area) may be factors in wildlife-vehicle incidents.

In 2006, Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation entered into a cooperative agreement to address wildlife-vehicle collisions, and implement a variety of educational outreach and mitigation measures. One of the steps taken was the placement of flashing message boards at strategic locations along Highway 26/89/191; these variable message signs caution motorists to be alert for wildlife and to slow down. In addition to the flashing message boards, other efforts include stationary signs placed at wildlife crossing hotspots, public service announcements broadcast on the radio, flyers provided at park entrance stations, and cautionary alerts placed in the Teewinot, the park’s newspaper. Grand Teton is also working with the Wyoming Department of Transportation on developing additional mitigation measures.

In an ongoing effort to reduce wildlife mortalities related to vehicle collisions, Grand Teton park managers once again urge motorists (local residents and out-of-state visitors alike) to stay alert, to slow down and to give wildlife a brake—especially during low-light conditions from dusk to dawn when animals may be difficult to see on roadways. Drivers should expect the unexpected with regard to wildlife that travel near and across park roads.