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South Dakota Snowboarder Rescued in Grand Teton National Park's Backcountry After Exiting Jackson Hole Mountain Resort


The side-by-side nature of Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort makes for a magnificent setting, but one which can be dangerous if you're not sure where you are.

Fortunately for a South Dakota snowboarder who found himself stranded in the park's backcountry unprepared to spend the night, park rangers and resort patrollers are experts at coming to the rescue.

Steve Sprague, 20, of Rapid City, was rocking out to his iPod last Friday evening and couldn't hear his friends trying to warn him that he was heading the wrong way, according to park and resort officials.

Instead of cruising off to Cody Bowl, Mr. Sprague found himself descending out of the resort boundary and into the park's Granite Canyon shortly before sundown.

"It could have turned out to be a more serious incident because he was wholly unprepared to be where he was," said Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs on Monday.

So unprepared was the snowboarder that when resort ski patrollers found him just before 6:30 p.m. he had taken off his outer shirt and was trying to use it and twigs as kindling for a fire, the park spokeswoman said.

"He was sacrificing something warm to get the fire started, which was a little surprising to the rescuers," said Ms. Skaggs.

Not long after the ski patrollers started to lead Mr. Sprague down and out of the canyon they were met by park rangers who had snowmobiles to help take the group the rest of the way, but it was slow going. At approximately 10:30 p.m., the group reached the Granite Canyon trailhead.

As the odds would have it, as this rescue was under way the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a cellphone call at approximately 5:50 p.m. from two visitors who had become disoriented while snowshoeing the Taggart/Bradley Lakes trail in Grand Teton.

Ross Trooien, age 26, from White Bear Lake, Minnesota and Gordon Mammel, age 25, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, became lost in the fading daylight and were unprepared to return to the trailhead in the dark, a park release explained. Park personnel were able to identify their location based on the men’s description and provided them with directions to the nearby American Alpine Club Climbers’ Ranch to await assistance.

Park personnel arrived on scene at 6:50 p.m., and both men were safely escorted out of the backcountry, reaching the trailhead at 7:30 p.m.

"We took our groomer and he went to that location, put them in the groomer and took them out," said Ms. Skaggs.

Backcountry users are cautioned to be prepared with the knowledge, skills, and emergency equipment necessary to safely recreate in the park’s backcountry areas before attempting a winter excursion. Park rangers advise anyone recreating in the park during winter to bring along extra clothing, high energy snacks and water as emergency gear in the event that they are required to spend more time than anticipated in the backcountry. Rangers also advise people to consider their physical limitations and time restrictions when choosing s destination, and to bring a map of the area and know how to use it before setting out.

Park rangers also remind backcountry users to pay special attention to avalanche and weather conditions before entering remote areas outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundaries.

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