A 40-year-old snowmobiler was buried and killed by an avalanche yesterday, approximately 19 miles north of West Yellowstone in the southern Madison Range.
Just before 5 p.m., Gallatin County dispatch received a call reporting a slide with one person injured. The incident occurred in the Cabin Creek drainage on the west side of Sage Peak.
Weylon Wiedemann, of Pine City, Minnesota, was pronounced dead at the scene. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office coroner, with help from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, will conduct the investigation today.
Rescuers from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, the West Yellowstone Division of Gallatin County Search and Rescue, and Air Methods responded to the incident.
The sheriff’s search commander immediately dispatched a helicopter from Air Idaho to locate the victim and assess the possibility of landing and rendering medical aid. The Air Idaho helicopter was on the scene in approximately 30 minutes, but revival efforts were unsuccessful.
According to today’s Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center advisory, six snowmobilers from Minnesota assessed that nearby slopes were dangerous and opted not to highmark, deciding instead to ride the lower flanks. Wiedemann triggered the slope from below and was caught and buried 3-feet deep under his sled.
His location was confirmed by a beacon search and he was dug out in 12 to 15 minutes, but did not survive.
Also yesterday, two skiers were partially buried by an avalanche outside of the south boundary of Bridger Bowl ski area. They were stopped underneath the cliffs near the lower flanks of Saddle Peak when a small wind pocket of snow was triggered above them. The skiers were not injured.
On Dec. 29, two skiers triggered an avalanche west of Cooke City, near Barronette Peak, that caught them both, partially burying one skier. They were flushed through trees but were not seriously injured. The day before, on Dec. 28, two skiers remotely triggered a slide in the Sheep Creek drainage northwest of Cooke City, partially burying one up to their neck.
An avalanche on the west side of the Bridger Range on Dec. 29 carried a skier 1,200 vertical feet, which partially buried him and resulted in wrist and knee injuries. The skier was evacuated by Gallatin County Search and Rescue with assistance from Bridger Bowl ski patrol.
Heavy snow and strong winds last week spiked the avalanche danger to “high” on wind-loaded slopes in Cooke City on Dec. 28, and “considerable” throughout the rest of the GNFAC advisory area. With a break in snowfall the last few days, the snowpack in southwest Montana is trending more stable, but is a “spicy moderate” today, according to avalanche center.
Look for an updated version of this story in the Jan. 5 edition of Explore Big Sky newspaper, and read the latest avalanche advisory at mtavalanche.com.