Trial is set to commence on August 12, 2019 for skier Natalie Burns in Federal Court in Jackson, Wyoming. Burns is charged with disorderly conduct and violating an emergency closure. She is accused of ducking a rope and leaving the ski area boundary at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with three others on February 28, 2019. Jackson had a huge winter in 2018-2019 and apparently the closure was an emergency closure due to extreme avalanche danger.
Naturally, after ignoring the closed boundary, Burns and her partners became lost and required emergency search and rescue. Rescuers had to use ropes to belay into the chute where Burns and her partners where found. Obviously, the conditions put the rescuers in danger due to the extremely high avalanche danger and the nature of the rescue. Fortunately, no one was injured and Burns and her partners were returned to the ski area by 3AM the following morning.
For many years Jackson had notoriously strict boundary policies. It claimed the strictness was a product of its special use permit with the Forest Service. But, one can imagine that the vast and dangerous terrain immediately outside the ski area must have also had something to do with it. Famously, the late Doug Coombs was permanently banished from Jackson Hole in 1997 for repeatedly ducking the ski area boundaries. Jackson later went on to open its boundaries on a limited basis in 2000.
According to The Jackson Hole News and Guide three of Burns’ partners have taken plea deals.
Next time you are out on the mountain and come a across a closed boundary, think twice about ducking it. There’s probably a good reason its closed and it probably has to do with your safety. Also, assuming you are not killed by whatever hazard is lurking beyond that rope, consider the risk others may face if they have to come to your rescue. It will be interesting to see how this trial turns out.
Here’s a link to to story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide: