Jamie Pierre, 1973-2011

Skier Jamie Pierre killed in an avalanche accident at Snowbird

Jamie Pierre. Photo: Jason Scheben

Jamie Pierre. Photo: Jason Scheben

By Tim Mutrie and Mike Rogge

Professional skier Jamie Pierre was killed in an avalanche accident today at Snowbird, Utah. Pierre was snowboarding with a friend in the resort’s South Chute area—though Snowbird is not yet open for the season—when he triggered the avalanche, according to officials with the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC).

Jamie Pierre clears Leviathan Gap, at 165 feet. Photo: Brent Benson

Jamie Pierre clears Leviathan Gap, at 165 feet. Photo: Brent Benson

Pierre, according to a preliminary report from the UAC, “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 accident was reported to authorities at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Pierre was 38 years old.

At least four other avalanches involving skiers/snowboarders ran today in Alta and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to the UAC. Alta, which is also not yet open for the season, has since closed to uphill traffic, the Utah Avalanche Center also reported on its Twitter account today.

A longtime fixture of the skiing scene, Pierre over the years filmed with Teton Gravity Research, Rage Films and Warren Miller Entertainment, and was renowned for his “go-for-broke” cliff hucking. He was the first skier to hit Little Cottonwood Canyon’s infamous Pyramid Gap, in May 1999, but he may be best known for his 255-foot cliff drop in the backcountry of Grand Targhee.

“He was a good dude,” Lee Cohen, a Powder senior photographer who lives at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, said by phone tonight. In a Facebook post, Cohen added, “A great person, a little misunderstood at times, but anyone who knew him knows he had a heart of gold.”

Pierre, who counted Snowbird among his sponsors, had recently relocated to Big Sky, Montana.

The Powder staff sends their condolences to the friends and family of Jamie Pierre.


Preliminary Report, in part, from the Utah Avalanche Center:

Accident & Rescue Info
Accident & Rescue Summary:
Hardesty and Kobernik plan to head to the accident site tomorrow (Monday 11/14) for the full investigation.

Two men in their 30s left the closed Alta ski area with the intent to ride the well known terrain of Alta and Snowbird. Neither ski areas are open yet and have yet to conduct any avalanche control within their boundaries. We interviewed the victim’s ski partner. While neither had any rescue gear or formal avalanche training, they were both expert skiers and new the terrain well. They continued to Snowbird via Baldy and accessed the Peruvian Cirque to gain the Gad Valley. Rescue reports indicated that they had likely triggered another slab avalanche prior to the victim triggering the fatal one. The partner did not recall hearing any collapses or whumphs in the snowpack, however.

With the partner watching, the victim dropped into the slope, immediately triggereing 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.

Terrain Summary:
This was in steep northwest facing terrain, terrain that no doubt held old rotten snow from October. The investigation will show more on Monday.

Weather & Avalanche History:
Collapsing of the snow pack occurred all week prior to the accident. There were two slab avalanches triggered early in the week and no less then 12 human triggered avalanches during the day of the accident. Over an inch of water weight was added to our weak pre existing snow, obviously too much weight for the snowpack to stay put with people on the steeper slopes.

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  • http://www.ketpak.com Mirza

    what a great sad News! very sorry for the loss of such inspiring figure, may his soul stays in peace and peace to the family!

  • Jamie M

    He pushed the boundaries of what anyone thought possible. Thanks for showing us it could be done. RIP Jamie.

  • james

    very sad news. it seems like every year there is some one from the skiing world getting killed in a skiing accident. prayers to all of his family and friends.

  • Gerry

    Very unfortunate. I really feel for his wife and children. When you read the accident report from the Avy Center it only makes you more upset. So many signs, but the urge is overwhelming.

  • Matthew

    Prayers for him and his family….so tragic….:(

  • ryan

    Sad, but kudos going while pursuing your passion. Powder panic grabs us all in the early season. Lest we not forget to be safe and obey the conditions. This could have been prevented, hopefully others will learn from Jamies costly mistake.

  • Reed

    last run of the day huh….

  • Eric Seibold

    If you’re gonna die, die with your boots on! Godspeed bro.

  • http://aol jay jay

    You took the mountain with such grace and fearless pride but in the end it took a brave sole that will be missed say hello to Steve you both took your talent to the next level. Godspeed!

  • Trevor

    great character and great skier. may the hobby backcountriers out there take this as a lesson that mother nature is always the most powerful influence on the hill. RIP Jamie. your segment in tgr’s high life awakened the skiing world to what cliff-hucking meant.

  • http://bmsw-r.com Scott (Short Term) Bergerson

    I had the very good fortune to meet and ski with Jamie at Monopalooza. I was even more impressed with who he was than what he did. He was a real good guy, just living to rip-it-up. Brothers and Sisters, pay attention to the avalanche reports! Eternal Face Shots Brother, just save a couple for me please.

  • snowandgo

    Jamie was a fantastic friend, father, and husband beyond his amazing ski talent. This is such an enormous loss for so many and it seems as though it can’t possibly be true. Sadly, it is much to true… much love to his wife and kids!

  • http://4frnt.com Matt Sterbenz

    Jamie said to me, “If you don’t want to hit this, would you mind probing the landing?”

    I had just arrived to Utah the night before. My goal was to shoot a couple photos and then compete in a big air event at Snowbird over the weekend. I knew of Jamie because we both ski’d for the same up-start clothing company out of Minneapolis (a state we shared with family) called Morphic. I called him up and more less told him I was coming to Utah and because we’re both from the Midwest and ski for the same clothing company, that it was perfectly acceptable for him to allow me to crash at his house for the week. And so I did. I crashed his basement couch, adjacent to a sequence poster he had matted of himself doing a monster back flip in theGrizzly Gulch – Pyramid or Chads Gap – I can’t remember. I recall asking him about it without revealing too much stardom, “Was that the biggest backflip you’ve ever done?” I asked. He replied, “That was my first!” And that was just how Jamie rolled.

    Over the next few years’ I stayed in frequent contact with him. Although he never wanted to come out to Tahoe, the one time I convinced him to come, he went straight up to the Palisades and said, “That’s it?” I just shook my head. I knew the sades, the rock outcrop along the Siberia ridgeline that made people like Scot Schmidt famous, were not going to arouse the Saint Pierre! We appreciated one another’s perspective, often debated, rarely agreed. Jamie wanted to be recognized for who he was and what he was doing. He was confident that his level of skiing was unlike anyone else’s and that, I couldn’t argue. No one else wanted to conciously achieve the largest cliff jump like Jamie did – and he did it. Jamie was on a path and for those around him, realized quickly you were either in his way or bringing up the rear. I loved that about him. A hardcore Midwestern work ethic on a mission. Over the more recent years, our relationship became more distant – his path and my own on two different but parallel trajectories. I enjoyed seeing him abroad at ISPO tradeshows and ski demos’. The last time I recall seeing him he was dressed in his ski clothing sponsors outerwear at SIA, walking in stride downtown Denver with grown men dressed as life-sized bananas.
    So while I ski’d around to the landing, or should I say, impact zone, I began to assemble my shovel. Not more than 10 secs do I hear Jamie yelling to me from the cliff face some 50 plus feet above. “Use your pole!” And I did what I was told, probing the area that he faintly pointed to, a trajectory that to me felt like a death sentence. “Jamie!” I yell, “There’s like 2 feet and then ice! It doesn’t look good!” He responds, “Turn your pole over and probe with your grip first to break through the ice, then how’s it look?” It took a few strikes and I was through the ice layer into what felt bottomless. I told him it was such and proceeded to take my front row seat to the “Pierre show.”

    I’ll never forget the sound, the roar and thunder of his jacket wrapping in the wind and then boom! The impact. Unreal. And there I firmly knew the drive this kid had. Not just because he went up and did it again, because he did. I knew because it sent a paralyzing feeling through my body. I couldn’t ski after that – I was in shock. I told the photographer so, I was done, this is too much. He laughed and said I wasn’t the first to feel this way. Laster I asked Jamie if we could just take some runs – since the whole cliff huck was our first and his second run of the day! He warmly apologized for the feelings I had, he said he wanted to get this cliff before anyone else did. I told him it was OK, I doubt anyone else will hit that today.

    Thank you Jamie, for showing us all how to be passionate, confident and driven to achieve our goals in life.

  • dan

    I understand the thrill of extreme sports, I love to ski as well. Sorry to the family of Jamie. However, as a true christian I cannot condone dangerous activity as being protected by God. The scriptures clearly demonstrate life as sacred and to be protected not frivously challenged. To say this activity was a way to bring attention to the Lord is an irony, he brought attention to himself. Again it is always sad to see the loss of life for what ever reason. Death was not Gods intention from the begining, Satan started that.

  • Paul Addison

    Very sad to see the loss of someone pushing the boundaries of his craft. I remember seeing that video of the 255 ft drop. Insane. Don’t let his death reign in those seeing to redefine what can happen when they hang it out. In climbing, skiing, and surfing, when we are closest to dying is when we are truly living.

  • dave o

    out of the thousands of ski movies when Jamie’s segment came around you knew to tighten the chinstrap. powder days were full throttle the next day.thanks for the stoke. see ya on the backside

  • Pingback: Snowpack Sketchy Across the West – Bruce Tremper: ‘Weakest, thickest layer of faceted snow I have ever seen in Utah in over a quarter century’ | XBOARD

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