Steve Romeo (top), publisher of the popular backcountry skiing blog Teton AT, and fellow Jackson Hole resident Chris Onufer (bottom) were killed in a large avalanche on Ranger Peak in Grand Teton National Park yesterday. The two were reported missing by Onufer’s father last night when the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employee didn’t arrive to pick him up at the Jackson airport as scheduled. Onufer’s vehicle was found at 12:30 a.m. at Colter Bay across from the Tetons, and at 8:40 this morning a rescue helicopter proceeded to search the vicinity of Ranger Peak.
The chopper dropped SAR members for a ground search, and Romeo and Onufer were found via their avalanche transceivers, which were still transmitting. By early afternoon, their bodies were transported from the scene and positively identified. According to the Bridge-Teton Avalanche Center, conditions at high elevations (9,000 to 10,500 feet) were moderate.
Romeo and Onufer were both large presences in Jackson’s vibrant skiing scene, though Romeo was more visible through his popular blog, which focused primarily on Teton skiing but spread the gospel of backcountry in a way that resonated throughout the world. His obsession with snow, sweet lines, mountains, and gear was inspirational.
Romeo skied Ranger Peak, the highest north of Mt. Moran, in 2009 (see photo below) and filed a trip report that said, “We dropped into the east facing bowl sometime before noon and linked turns for a thousand feet, coming to a stop at one of the many cirques and tarns that make up the approach to Ranger Peak. I look forward to returning to the area in more winter-like conditions as the terrain looks limitless.”
For the loss of both men, it is a heartbreaking day in Jackson.
Ranger Peak with tracks, from Romeo's 2009 descent.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort released the following statement:
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Mourns the Loss
of Dedicated and Valued Employee, Chris Onufer
Teton Village: It is with much sadness and a deep feeling of loss that we share this information regarding longtime JHMR employee Chris Onufer, who died in an avalanche on Ranger Peak in Grand Teton National Park yesterday, with former JHMR employee, Steve Romeo.
Chris began working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in 1993 on Trail Crew and moved to lift operations in the winter of 1993/94. The following summer he was hired as a Tram Operator which began his dedication and devotion for both the old and new aerial trams. In the fall of 1994 he moved to the Tram Maintenance Department. Chris was one of several key figures who took care of the previous Jackson Hole Tram through to its last day in September 2006. In addition he was an instrumental player in the design, development, installation and operation of the new tram opened to the public in December of 2008.
His deep commitment and compassion for this integral attraction of Jackson Hole culminated in his being named Tram Maintenance Manager earlier this year.
An avid athlete, outdoorsman, skier and mountaineer, Chris was active in Triathlons, a regular in the Pole Pedal Paddle event and participated in climbing and descending many of the famous peaks of our valley. This past summer he and other JHMR employees made a mountaineering attempt on North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Beyond the athleticism, Chris was a committed 2nd lieutenant volunteer firefighter and EMT in the Teton Village Fire Department. He was also involved with the Jackson Hole Fire and EMS service.
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.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris and Steve’s family and friends. Please keep them in your thoughts.