Professional skier Jamie Pierre was killed Sunday afternoon by an avalanche he triggered while he and a friend were snowboarding at Utah’s Snowbird Ski Resort. The resort had not yet opened for the season and conditions throughout the area were hazardous in the aftermath of a major storm.
Pierre, 38, a backcountry specialist who had appeared in numerous films and in 2006 set a world record with a 255-foot cliff jump, was swept hundreds of feet over a rocky cliff at Snowbird’s South Chute area.
The incident is under investigation but the Utah Avalanche Center reported on its website that avalanche-control measures had not been taken because the resort was closed. The center, which interviewed Pierre’s unidentified partner, posted this statement on its website: “With the partner watching, the victim dropped into the slope, immediately triggreing the slide. He was carried hundreds of feet through steep rocky terrain and reportedly went over a small cliff band and came to a stop only partially buried.
“The partner called for a rescue, alerting both the Snowbird Ski Patrol and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, who subsequently accessed and evacuated the victim.”
Snowbird is scheduled to open Nov. 19. The avalanche that killed Pierre was one of several in Little Cottonwood Canyon area on Sunday. A skier suffered a pelvis injury in another slide.
Skiers and snowboarders were cautioned by the Utah Avalanche Center, which listed the danger level as “considerable.”
Wrote forecaster Brett Kobernik: “The hard part will be to curb our enthusiasm for early season powder. We want to go where the snow coverage is the best but these are the most likely spots to take a ride in an avalanche.”
Jamie Pierre’s record-setting jump from 2006.
Of the incident involving Pierre, who was married with children, Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department told the Deseret News: “It’s a very sad reminder to have to put out there to remind people that these are backcounty conditions and people ultimately are not allowed on the mountain as a result of the resort being closed.”
News of the tragedy began to spread late Sunday afternoon.
Lee Cohen, a Powder magazine photographer who lives at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, posted on Facebook: “A great person, a little misunderstood at times, but anyone who knew him knows he had a heart of gold.”
The Ski Channel wrote on its website: “Jamie Pierre was near and dear to us here at The Ski Channel, and we had the pleasure of getting to know Jamie during the production of our 2010 film, ‘The Story.’ Not only did his performance in the film woo audiences around the country, but his 255-foot cliff huck on Fred’s Mountain at the back of Grand Targhee is a world record!
“However, Jamie can probably be best characterized as a loving, devoted father, a master athletic craftsman and sweet human being. The loss of Jamie Pierre is tragedy for his family, the ski community and the world.”
— Portrait image of Jamie Pierre is by Jason Scheben of Powder magazine