At 1:45 p.m. yesterday, January 30, Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) was notified of a large avalanche on the south face of Taylor Mountain, just west of the summit of Teton Pass. The avalanche was a D3-R3.
“Temperatures dropped overnight and skies cleared but over 4 feet of recent snow sitting on crust. Sun was out, directly on slope, however temp was still cold (near zero degrees F). Snowpack is still adjusting to new load, only stopped snowing early hours of 29th.”
– Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center snowpack report
A person had witnessed the avalanche from the Coal Creek parking lot and called it in. TCSAR deployed a helicopter team to fly over the avalanche path to investigate and ensure that nobody had been caught or buried in the slide. The helicopter made numerous passes over the avalanche utilizing the RECCO SAR Helicopter Detector, which picks up RECCO transponders, and the heli beacon, which detects frequencies from avalanche transceivers.
These multiple efforts did not pick up any signals.
Meanwhile, a TCSAR volunteer at Coal Creek interviewed witnesses and spoke to the person who had accidentally triggered the slide. The person was confident that no one had been caught. The heli returned to the hangar, and all teams stood down.
Dangerous avalanche conditions exist, especially on wind-loaded slopes. Significant snowfall and wind have buried weaker snow beneath 3+ feet of dense snow. Humans have triggered numerous large and destructive avalanches over the past several days. Triggering an avalanche remains likely and can occur in wind-sheltered terrain as well as from gentler terrain above, below, and to the sides of steeper slopes.