Fellow skier witnessed, tried life-saving efforts; deemed experienced, properly equipped backcountry skiers
SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office on Saturday released the name of a 46-year-old Bend man who was struck and killed Thursday by an avalanche he apparently triggered while skiing with a friend at Black Crater, a steep-sided shield volcano north of the Three Sisters.
Lt. Jayson Janes identified the victim as Aaron Griffith. His Facebook page indicated he worked at Meta after other technology jobs, was married and was from Washington state.
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue was dispatched around noon Thursday to a report of an avalanche after the second skier, also a Bend man, called 911 dispatchers. He told them that he and a friend were skiing in the Black Crater caldera when an avalanche was triggered, Sergeant Jason Wall said Friday.
The 7,257-foot-tall shield volcano is located east of McKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades.
Griffith's companion reported that his friend was caught up in the avalanche, no longer visible and possibly injured, Wall said.
“They’re pretty accomplished backcountry skiers,” the sergeant told NewsChannel 21. “They snowmobiled in to a certain location, at which point they entered the (Three Sisters) Wilderness with ‘skins’ on the bottom of their skis, for a ski approach to the top.”
“When the first skier dropped in, that's when the avalanche was triggered, and he was swept up by it and perished as a result,” Wall said.
Both skiers were equipped with proper backcountry safety items, including avalanche beacons, shovels, helmets and avalanche probes, the sergeant added.
The reporting party tried to find Griffith, using his avalanche beacon, and ultimately was successful. He attempted life-saving measures, but Griffith had succumbed to his injuries, Wall said.
The DCSO SAR unit, along with U.S. Forest Service personnel, responded to the area and helped the second skier to safety.
Due to extreme avalanche danger and failing light, SAR personnel halted recovery efforts until daylight Friday. Wall said worked Friday with other community partners to safely recover the fallen skier, a mission that concluded by around nightfall.
"Triggering an avalanche in wind deposited snow will be likely on Friday on north, east, and south facing slopes near and above treeline," it stated. "Most avalanches will be small, however be cautious in steep and committing terrain, and above terrain traps such as cliffs and other features that can increase the consequence of being caught in an avalanche."
"If you observe signs of unstable snow such as cracking or previous avalanches, or if you have uncertainty in the snowpack, increase your safety margin by staying on slopes less than 30 degrees steep," the forecast "bottom line" concluded.