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Interagency response successfully rescues injured backcountry skier



The jagged and sharp featured of the Tetons pose a threat to mountain enthusiasts year round. PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA


MOOSE, WY — Grand Teton National Park, Teton County Search and Rescue and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort coordinated a successful rescue of a backcountry skier on May 29.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. Teton County Dispatch received an emergency call regarding an individual that was injured after a substantial fall on the west side of Cody Peak, south of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.  Four individuals were hiking from the top of the tram at the Resort to backcountry ski when one of the individuals slipped on firm snow and ice, falling approximately 1,000 feet.  One of the individuals called 911, and two members of the party plus two other individuals from a separate party, who happened to be emergency medical technicians, descended to the injured member of the group.  

Teton County Search and Rescue initiated a rescue response, including their helicopter, and notified Grand Teton National Park for assistance.  Members of the mountain patrol staff from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort also assisted by skiing to the location of the injured skier.    

Though the accident site was determined to be inside the park boundaries once rescuers located the scene, park and county search and rescue leaders determined that Teton County would maintain command in the interest of efficiency. The county helicopter dropped off one rescuer on a nearby ridge who then skied to the patient and determined that a short-haul extraction was appropriate.

The park short-haul team responded and the injured individual, 24-year-old Stephen Sherk from Jackson, Wyoming, was transported via short haul and driven by county ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.   

The National Park Service, Teton County and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort work and train collaboratively to respond to emergency situations. It is through this professional partnership that successful outcomes such as this rescue are possible.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.

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