This post will be updated as more details become known.
In the moments after the Natural Selection event, after the snow had settled and TV cameras and drones had been put away, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Park & Pipe Crew met at the start gate. This was their turn for a lap on the course they spent so much time over the last few years tirelessly bringing to life. Mike McKelvey was at the forefront of that construction project, contributing countless hours of sweat, splinters, and his own blood, but always with a laugh and a big smile. Being an incredibly talented and stylish rider in his own right, Mike more than anything just wanted to ride the features they were building for the pros.
At the Natural Selection start gate he was the first person from Park & Pipe to drop in. Fellow rider, friend, and photographer Keegan Rice took this photo of him moments after he finished his first run down the course.
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Mike McKelvey was caught in an avalanche on Thursday afternoon on Togwotee Pass in Jackson, Wyoming, and did not survive. After hitting a jump, the slope of the landing collapsed and buried Mike. His riding partners quickly located him under 12 feet of snow, dug him out, and performed CPR. He was then flown via life-flight to Idaho Falls where he passed away. Mike has been a fixture of the snowboarding community here for many years: in the pages of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine, as part of the Park & Pipe crew at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, as a Shred Coalition rider, and as a friend who loved to snowboard. He will be sorely missed.
More Details About The Avalanche
Mike was riding with a group of friends in an area on Togwotee Pass near Wind River Lake. They were hitting a well-known backcountry jump with a steep, short landing ending in a flat gully roughly 300 yards from the turnout on the highway. According to a post on Buckrail:
Members of McKelvey’s party were quickly able to locate him within the avalanche debris via his avalanche beacon and by utilizing an avalanche probe. McKelvey however was determined to have been buried under 10 to 12 feet of snow and was unresponsive when he was recovered. Life saving measures were initially performed by members of McKelvey’s party and later by personnel from Teton County Search and Rescue and Grand Teton National Park.
A team of Teton County Search & Rescue (TCSAR) volunteers happened to already be in the area conducting snowmobile training, and were able to get to the scene quickly. According to TCSAR chief advisor Cody Lockhart, "They built a big jump that landed on the face of a steep ravine. A 5-foot slide broke loose and buried him at the bottom."
Mike's riding partners already had dug him out of the snow by the time rescuers arrived. He initially had no pulse but was able to be revived via an automated external defibrillator (AED) device. He was then transported short-haul via helicopter to a waiting Grand Teton National Park ambulance, and then flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center from the Jackson Hole airport. He passed away at the hospital in Idaho Falls.
"This is the second avalanche fatality in Western Wyoming in as many days, and follows the recent trend of tragic avalanche accidents nationwide. With recent heavy snowfall and more on the way, a reminder to please keep it safe out there," Teton County Search and Rescue said.
The Snowboarding World Mourns Mike McKelvey
Since the news broke Thursday night of Mike's death, the snowboarding community has seen an outpouring of love and grief. Friends, family, and fellow riders have been expressing their sadness and remembering the ways, great and small, that he touched their lives. Natural Selection founder Travis Rice posted this remembrance:
Alex Yoder shared his condolences and some thoughts about the dangers of the Togwotee Pass zone where Mike lost his life, and the dangers of terrain traps in general. It's a scary time in the backcountry here in Jackson Hole right now, as it is in many parts of the western United States, and conservative backcountry decision-making is more important than ever.
Mike McKelvey was a friend, coworker, athlete, photographer, digger, and a shining light in the snowboarding community of Jackson Hole. Please hold Mike and everyone who knew and loved him in your heart today. Ride in peace bud.