News: Avalanches Kill Two Skiers In Wyoming

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Story via the Jackson Hole Daily

Jackson Hole, Wyo. - A pair of unrelated avalanches near Jackson killed two backcountry skiers Sunday.

Elizabeth “Liza” Benson, 28, and Nick Gillespie, 30, died from trauma in two separate slides, officials reported. The fatalities were the first of the winter and came after fresh snowfall over the weekend broke a prolonged dry spell in Jackson Hole.

Benson was skiing in the Cliff Creek drainage, off Hoback Canyon in Sublette County, in a group of five people. The party, including her boyfriend and a physician, were skiing in the Clause Creek area, commonly reached by snowmobile.

A slide with an 8-inch crown swept her into a tree at about 9,200 feet elevation, according to reports from the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center and the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. The Sublette Sheriff’s Office received a call from the group at about 3:25 p.m.

The initial report was that a skier had been injured. The doctor in the group pronounced Benson dead during the phone call, the sheriff’s department said.

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Gillespie, a seasonal trail crew worker in Grand Teton National Park, was the second valley resident to be killed Sunday. He was descending the southeast slopes of Survey Peak, near the park’s north boundary, when he got caught in an avalanche around 5 p.m.

Gillespie was skiing in a group of four that had been staying at the Upper Berry Creek patrol cabin since Thursday, park officials said.

The group climbed and skied the 9,277-foot peak that day. Two remained near the base of the mountain while Gillespie and a partner made a second lap, park deputy chief of interpretation Mike Nicklas said.

Gillespie descended first and apparently triggered the avalanche.

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