2 skiers die in backcountry avalanche in Grand Teton National Park

Two skiers died in a backcountry avalanche in Grand Teton National Park. (NPS photo - click to enlarge)

By Ruffin Prevost

CODY, WYO. — Rescuers recovered the bodies Thursday of two skiers who died in a backcountry avalanche in the mountains of Grand Teton National Park.

Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer, both of Jackson, Wyo. had failed to return as expected Wednesday evening from their trip to Ranger Peak, in the northern Teton Range, according to Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park.

Skaggs said that both men were expert backcountry skiers and well-known local figures around Jackson. Romeo operated a popular backcountry skiing website.

The skiers’ vehicle was found at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday at a trailhead parking lot 10 miles north of Moran Junction. Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue initiated a search at dawn on Thursday morning.

A search and rescue helicopter located a large avalanche debris field on the slope of Ranger Peak and at 8:48 Thursday morning, and picked up signals from two avalanche beacons. Backcountry skiers often wear transmitters to aid in their location and rescue in the event of an avalanche.

Avalanche danger in the region was listed as moderate on Wednesday afternoon, and low on Thursday morning, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche center.

On Wednesday in Washington D.C., Interior Secretary Ken Salazar presented seven Grand Teton National Park rangers with the Department of the Interior  Valor Award for their actions during July 2010 search and rescue efforts to aid 17 climbers caught in a powerful lightning storm on the Grand Teton.

A Teton County Search and Rescue volunteer was killed last month in a helicopter crash that also killed a snowmobiler who rescuers were assisting. The circumstances of that crash are under investigation.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]

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