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Avalanche Kills Snowmobiler At Smiley Creek

On Friday, Feb.19, at approximately 11:46 a.m., Blaine County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Smiley Creek Lodge, approximately 35 miles north of Ketchum, for a report of an avalanche and a snowmobile crash with injuries.

Upon investigation, it was determined that Andrew M. Jessop, age 30, of Corvallis, Mont., was snowmobiling with his family when he was caught and killed in an avalanche in the upper reaches of Smiley Creek drainage in the Vienna Mine area. Family members located and moved the deceased Jessop to Smiley Creek Lodge before the arrival of first responders.    

According to the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, the avalanche broke loose on a south-facing slope at an elevation of approximately 9,000 feet. The upper portion of the slope was wind-loaded. A rider triggered a very large avalanche that was approximately 500 feet wide, 3 to 4 feet thick, and ran over 1,000 vertical feet.

Jessop was caught and carried into trees near the bottom of the avalanche path. He deployed his avalanche airbag and was not buried, but sustained severe injuries. Members of the group were not able to revive Jessop. The avalanche danger was rated to be considerable at the time of the accident.

Witness statements put Jessop as being the highest one on the mountainside at the time of the avalanche. Jessop was riding a 2020 yellow and black Ski-Doo 850 Summit X snowmobile, which was not found after the avalanche. The Forest Service is coordinating with the family to recover the snowmachine at a later date.

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