Pro skier Jamie Pierre died Sunday snowboarding in Utah after an avalanche swept him over rocky terrain and cliffs. An accident summary from the Utah Avalanche Center said Pierre and his partner were riding the terrain at Alta and Snowbird even though neither ski area was open or had conducted any avalanche control.
Surprisingly, neither boarder had any avalanche gear, and though they had set off an earlier avalanche while boot packing, the pair continued. . The 38-year-old skier was known for risk-taking behavior, like the 2006 jump at Targhee, which was, at the time, a world record.
Pierre triggered a 14- to 20-foot soft slab immediately upon entering a northwest-facing slope in the Gad Valley, which they accessed via the Peruvian Cirque near Snowbird. Avalanche danger on Sunday was rated as considerable to high.
Snowbird was technically closed to hikers and skiers at the time of the avalanche, and signs were posted that warned that the resort was closed. An announcement that appeared on Snowbird’s website stated that due to mountain conditions and winter preparation, no on-mountain hiking is permitted. Alta also closed its boundaries on Sunday. The accident report from the Utah Avalanche Center stated that investigators heard of over 10 human-triggered avalanches on the day of the fatality, primarily in the upper elevation terrain in the unopened Alta ski area.
The tragic Utah death is an early-season reminder to check and understand avalanche conditions before venturing into the backcountry or even while accessing terrain at unopened ski resorts. And always have the appropriate gear when venturing into the back country.