Wyoming Skiers Killed In Separate Avalanches

Two Wyoming skiers were killed in separate avalanches on Sunday, the first two people to be killed in slides so far this winter.

The skiers, Elizabeth “Liza” Gray Benson and Nick Gillespie, were both backcountry skiers familiar with the area.

Benson, 29, died when a small slide overtook her west of Bondurant, and she hit a tree. Gillespie, 30, who worked as a Grand Teton National Park seasonal employee, was caught in an avalanche around 5 pm on the southeast face of Survey Peak.

The Huffington Post reports that Gillespie died of his injuries sustained in the slide. Crews worked on Monday to recover both of their bodies.

Benson was skiing with four other people near Cliff and Cabin creeks when the slide happened. Her companions called for help, but a doctor who was with them pronounced her dead during the call.

Gillespie was a long-time seasonal employee who worked on Grand Teton National Park’s trail crew for the past six seasons. He was with three other people who attempted to revive him. When they were unable to, they took his body to a back country patrol cabin and spent the night there.

The Casper-Star Tribune notes that the area received significant snowfall over the weekend, making the snow pack unstable when the Wyoming skiers were killed. The new snow was resting on old snow that had grown weak from being crystallized or grainy because snow melted from the sun and turned to ice at night.

The avalanche danger Sunday morning was rated as low, but it was expected to rise to moderate by Sunday afternoon. Moderate means that a human-triggered slide was possible. The danger on Monday was rated as considerable.