CSAC Avalanche Incident

West Yellowstone, Idaho - January 3, 1998

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Official Reports

Sawtelle Mtn (about 20 mi. SW of W. Yellowstone)

While this report is from Ron Johnson of the Gallatin Natl Forest Avalanche Center in Bozeman MT the incident occurred outside their forecast area.

On Saturday, January 3, 1998, a snowmobiler was buried in a small avalanche near Sawtell Peak, Idaho. He and his partner were high marking on a small slope when he triggered an avalanche. The avalanche occurred at about 3:30 PM. His partner was not caught and went for help. Local authorities were notified at about 4:00 PM. A search was made of the site and a snowmobile was found. Due to poor visibility and concerns about the avalanche danger, the search was suspended at about 6:00 PM.

The search was contined on Sunday morning around 9:00 AM. The body was located, by probing, shortly before noon. He was buried about 3 feet deep and was about 10 feet across the slope from where his snowmobile was found.

The avalanche was about 100 feet wide and ran about 300 vertical feet. The steepest slope angle was about 36 degrees. The slope has an east aspect and is at about 9500 feet. Because of near blizzard conditions, it was difficult to find the crown face. However, the slope was wind loaded and it looked as though the avalanche fractured on a weak layer of faceted grains which were near a buried ice crust. This area had received about 1-2 feet of new snow during the previous few days.

Ron Johnson
Avalanche Specialist
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center
P.O. Box 130
Bozeman, Montana  59771

Media Reports

Other Sources