Avalanche that Killed Ski Patrol Member Human-Triggered

Darren Johnson died Jan. 19 while assisting two graduate students with avalanche research in Gallatin National Forest

By Tristan Scott

BILLINGS — An investigation by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center reveals how a ski patrol member died in a southwestern Montana avalanche.

The Billings Gazette reports that 34-year-old Darren Johnson died Jan. 19 while assisting two Montana State University graduate students with avalanche research. The group had been heading back to the Yellowstone Club when the avalanche hit.

A report released by the avalanche center’s director, Doug Chabot, says Johnson jumped onto a wind-loaded slope and triggered a slide 2 to 4 feet deep and 300 feet wide before he was swept into a group of trees.

Chabot says the group had taken an alternate route across the terrain after recognizing that the slope was unstable. It’s unclear why Johnson chose to ski the slope anyway.


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