Two well-known backcountry skiers were killed on Wednesday in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Park rangers found the bodies of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employee Chris Onufer and ski mountaineer and blogger Steve Romeo on Thursday.
Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue initiated the search after being notified that two skiers failed to return home on Wednesday. They found the car of the missing skiers late Wednesday night in a trailhead parking lot 10 miles north of Moran Junction. They began an aerial reconnaissance flight to Ranger Peak at sunrise on Thursday.
They located a large avalanche debris field on the slope of 11,355-foot Ranger Peak just before 9 a.m. and searchers aboard the helicopter received signals from two avalanche beacons. A physical search of the debris turned up the two missing skiers.
According to a release from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Onufer began working at the ski area in 1993 and most recently worked as the manager of the tram maintenance department and was an integral figure in the development and installation of the new tram, which opened in December 2008. "A class act and a quiet leader, Chris was humble and let his work and achievements speak for themselves, he will be missed by all at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and in the greater Jackson Hole and Teton Valley Communities," states the release.
Steve Romeo was an avid ski mountaineer and randonee racer who ran a popular backcountry skiing blog, TetonAT.com. "There were two things that made Steve Romeo tick -- skiing and the Tetons," Romeo's friend and ski partner Zahan Billimoria told ESPN. "He was the consummate skier whose whole life revolved around making turns. It was really the wildness that I think he loved in the whole thing, the liberty to put your track wherever you want, to make your own choice about how to approach mountains. He made backcountry skiing cool. And if you were a Teton skier -- then he really made you feel the pride."
The avalanche danger was listed as moderate on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche center. This tragedy brings the avalanche fatality number for the U.S. to 27 for this season.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris and Steve's family and friends," said the release from Jackson Hole. "Please keep them in your thoughts."