Rangers Rescue Stranded Snowboarder and Snowshoers from Backcountry on Same Day

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Date: January 9, 2011
Contact: Jackie Skaggs, (307) 739-3393

January 9, 2011

Grand Teton National Park rangers and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrollers conducted a search and rescue operation for a stranded snowboarder in the backcountry of Granite Canyon during the early evening hours of Friday, January 7. Steven Sprague, age 20, from Rapid City, South Dakota, took a wrong turn and inadvertently entered Grand Teton’s backcountry after exiting an out-of-bounds gate at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at approximately 4:20 p.m.

Sprague and his two snowboarding partners intended to traverse into Cody Bowl on Friday afternoon. They exited the out-of-bounds gate at the top of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and entered Granite Canyon, instead of turning south where they had planned to snowboard. Sprague’s partners, realizing that they were off course, attempted to alert Sprague by shouting at him to stop; however, Sprague was unable to hear his companions cries because he was wearing earphones for an iPod. Shortly after, Sprague’s companions alerted patrol staff from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort of the situation, and a search and rescue operation was initiated.

Park rangers used snowmobiles from Death Canyon trailhead on Moose-Wilson Road, and then mounted skis to access Granite Canyon. Meanwhile, patrol staff from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort skied into Granite Canyon from the summit of Rendezvous Mountain. Patrol staff were first to reach the stranded snowboarder at approximately 6:20 p.m. as rangers continued their ascent into the canyon. Sprague was in good physical condition, but was not prepared to spend the night in the backcountry as he did not have extra clothing, food, basic emergency gear or shelter. At approximately 10:30 p.m., park rangers transported Sprague and the ski patrollers by snowmobile to the Granite Canyon trailhead, where the group was then transported by waiting resort personnel to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

As rescuers worked to locate the stranded snowboarder, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call at approximately
5:50 p.m. from two visitors who had become disoriented while snowshoeing the Taggart/Bradley Lakes trail in Grand Teton National Park. Ross Trooien, age 26, from White Bear Lake, Minnesota and Gordon Mammel, age 25, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, became lost in the fading daylight and were unprepared to return to the trailhead in the dark. Park personnel were able to identify their location based on the men’s description and provide directions by cell phone, guiding Trooien and Mammel to the nearby AAC Climbers’ Ranch to await assistance. Park personnel arrived on scene at 6:50 p.m., and both men were safely escorted out of the backcountry, reaching the trailhead at 7:30 p.m.

Backcountry users are cautioned to be prepared with the knowledge, skills, and emergency equipment necessary to safely recreate in the park’s backcountry areas before attempting a winter excursion. Park rangers advise anyone recreating in the park during winter to bring along extra clothing, high energy snacks and water as emergency gear in the event that they are required to spend more time than anticipated in the backcountry. Rangers also advise people to consider their physical limitations and time restrictions when choosing s destination, and to bring a map of the area and know how to use it before setting out.

Park rangers also remind backcountry users to pay special attention to avalanche and weather conditions before entering remote areas outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundaries.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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