CSAC Avalanche Incident

Cooke City, Montana - January 18, 1998

[Official Reports] [Media Reports] [Other Sources]

Official Reports

From the GNF Avalanche Center

To say the least, last Sunday was a bad day for avalanches in our area. The accidents followed a familiar pattern for those of us who try to keep people out of avalanches...a nice, sunny day with an unstable snowpack. On Scotch Bonnet Mountain near Cooke City a group of snowmobilers were trying to work their way up the lower part of a slope when they triggered a decent sized avalanche. The slide pulled out in two different places, with one part being about 300 ft wide and other part being about 75 feet wide. In all areas it was about 2 to 5 ft deep and failed on an ice crust down near the ground. Down at the bottom the slope it piled the debris deeply, totally burying three riders and partially burying another. When the partially buried rider got out of the slide he went for help. One of the buried riders was wearing an avalanche beacon, and he was quickly recovered by the first folks from Cooke City Search and Rescue on the scene, but he had probably been buried for over an hour. The other two victims were found by probing. All the victims were buried 5 to 8 ft deep and none of them responded to the first aid efforts of the rescuers.


Yesterday, three snowmobilers were buried and killed in an avalanche near Lulu Pass, which is near Cooke City. It sounds as though two riders were helping another rider get his sled unstuck when the avalanche released. They had been "high marking" on fairly steep terrain. One of the riders was wearing an avalanche rescue beacon and was located about 30-40 minutes after being buried. The other folks were found by probing. Karl will be investigating this avalanche and will have more details on tomorrows advisory.

I have received more reports of recent avalanche activity in the Big Sky area. Yesterday, the Ski Patrol released another large avalanche that was 4-5 feet deep and ran a long distance down the slope. They also reported collapsing and cracking of the snowpack, with some cracks propagating 200 feet across some smaller slopes. Skiers, near Buck Creek Ridge, triggered some avalanches, when the lower angled slopes they were on collapsed which caused the steeper slopes below them to fracture. Finally, some snowmobiliers in the same area, triggered an avalanche which was about 100 feet wide and 300 feet long. This avalanche was about 8 feet deep and partially buried a snowmobile.

I just got word of another snowmobiler that was killed in an avalanche near Sage Peak, which is in the southern Madison Range. I don't have any details concerning this incident.

Media Reports

Associated Press Report

Cooke City, Montana (January 19, 1998)

"A stuck snowmobiler and two others who were trying to free him died Sunday whan an avalanche buried them under six feet of snow just north of Yellowstone Park.

A beacon worn by one of the snowmobilers led rescuers to the bodies.

Sheriff Charley Johnson said up to a foot of snow fell in the area Wednesday night, and another 8 to 10 inches had fallen each night since then. The slide was 100 yards across by a quarter mile long, he said.

The threat of additional avalanches made the search hazardous.

"This whole pass up there is a conglomeration of different avalanche chutes", Johnson said.

Two of the victims were from Cody, Wyoming, and the third was from Canada. Their names and ages were being withheld until their families could be notified, Johnson said.

The avalanche was in the same area where a Billings man died in a snow slide in January, 1994.

Other Sources

From the online form:

Location: LuLu pass near Cook City MTbr Avalanche Size: 3br Type: Loosebr Water: Drybr Activity: Snowmobilingbr Party Size: 9br People Caught: 4br Partial Burials: 1br Complete Burials: 3br Fatalities: 3br Name 1: Brain Alexander; Beacon: Dual Freqbr Name 2: Jeremy Thielbr Name 3: Mervin Sawatzkybr

Comments: Brian and Jeremy will be buried in Cody Wy on Friday January 23 1998. All three of the sleds were lost in the slide. The slide was 100 yards wide and 1/4 of a mile long.