As you may already know, Jamie Pierre, professional skier and renowned mountain enthusiast was lost this past Sunday November 13th, in a tragic accident in Snowbird ski area due to an avalanche that swept him down a cliff and over 800 ft of jagged, rock-laden terrain.
Matthew Jamie Pierre was one of the most prominent members in the freeskier culture. His exploits are well documented. At one point in his career he was the most photographed skier in the world. He once said; “One way you can separate yourself from other people is to do things bigger or more extreme”, and he did just that. His accomplishments, while unbelievable, are known throughout the world and written about in countless periodicals and record books. Jamie had been featured in numerous ski films including The Ski Channel’s feature documentary The Story (2010), Warren Miller’s Children of Winter, and Playground (2007). Even though he was an integral part of the industry, Jamie primarily skied for himself; explaining in many interviews that “he was just having fun”. Always the unique character (as most in his profession are), Jamie ran into many who misunderstood his motives. Actions that critics sometimes perceived as fool-hearty and reckless were in actuality calculated moves fueled by years of planning, expertise and a deep faith in God.
Despite his success on the slopes, Jamie was constantly searching for opportunities to go bigger. He embarked upon multiple first descents including his namesake, the Saint Pierre’s Cathedral, outside of Haines, Alaska on the insurmountable face of Mount Emmerick. In 2006, Jamie Pierre gained superhuman status and international notoriety through his Grand Targhee Cliff Drop. He defied the preconceived notions of what is physically possible by skiing off a 255 foot cliff, and not only surviving — but riding away completely unscathed (minus a split lip from one of the shovels digging him out!). While it is a reprehensible thought, it is ironic that someone that survived such a feat would meet his death while embarking upon a blue-bird day of pre-season riding at Snowbird ski area, in Utah.
According to the Utah Avalanche Center, Pierre and his friend left Alta Ski Area and traversed to Snowbird Resort via a series of backcountry ridges along Mt. Baldy and accessed the Peruvian Cirque to gain access to the Gad Valley. While ascending up the Peruvian Cirque the two actually triggered a small avalanche. It is unclear whether they fully realized their effect on the terrain, although, the first avalanche did cover part of their tracks. Regardless, they continued on until they reached the northwest-facing slope where Pierre triggered the slide.
“With the partner watching, the victim dropped into the slope, immediately triggering the slide. He was carried approximately 800 feet through steep rocky terrain and reportedly went over a small cliff band and came to a stop only partially buried. The partner went down to help the victim and called for a rescue, alerting both the Snowbird Ski Patrol and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, who subsequently accessed and evacuated the victim.”
Utah Avalanche Officials went on to explain that the snow conditions have been dangerous for the past few weeks. The snow that caused Sunday’s avalanche was essentially the type of snowpack reported since the heavy storms which dropped the area’s first snows. The snowpack consisted of a layered structure with a depth of a little over 2 feet deep. There were about 8 inches of light powder sitting on top of 3 inches of loose faceted snow, which was on top of a “melt freeze” crust of varying thickness, which was sitting on top of 3/4 of a foot of large grainy snow left from the October storm. Essentially it was a melt crust sandwiched between two weak layers of unstable snowpack. Not only did the snowpack have a high suseptability to collapse, but the distance and scope of the potential avalanche was increased as well.
Who would have thought the first avalanche fatality of the season would be a professional skier, let alone The Legendary Jamie Pierre? That is the question we are left with after this tragedy. Details are still coming in, between Jamie’s riding companion and the fine work of the Utah Avalanche Center and Snowbird Resort Ski Patrol, most of the gaps in our understanding of the day’s events will be filled. However, there are so many more circumstances that we could never hope to understand and may end up being chalked up as one of the great mysteries of life.
What we do know is that Jamie Pierre was a beloved member of the ski community. He was a devoted family man, and loved his two little girls. He knew “there was more to live for in life than going big”, and despite any misconceptions — he was a safetey-conscious individual who respected the mountain as much as he loved hucking himself off of it. We can all take solace in the fact that he lived his life to the fullest and died doing something he loved. Most of us seldom get such an opportunity to be on the edge of glory, Matthew Jamie Pierre experienced more than we could have ever imagined or previously thought possible. His death is a terrible loss, and he will be missed.
We at The Ski Channel would like to express our sincerest condolences to the Pierre family and those closest to Jamie. Please enjoy this small video tribute to a man who was truly larger than life.
Take care Jamie…