The man who died in an avalanche west of Choteau Saturday was Eric Steven Greyn, 35, of Choteau, Teton County Sheriff Keith Van Setten said Monday.
Greyn was a member of a four-person party of relatives who were snowmobiling in the South Fork of Waldron Creek in Teton Canyon two miles south of Teton Pass Ski Area west of Choteau.
The snowmobiles triggered the avalanche, Van Setten said.
Greyn and another member of the party were in the avalanche, he said.
When the avalanche began, Greyn was further down the hill and not on his snowmobile, Van Setten said. He and his snowmobile were swept about 150 yards below the location where he was last seen. He was discovered under 2 feet of snow.
“He did not have an avalanche beacon and so the three remaining in the party searched briefly, and they had to use their snowmobile and then climb high enough on the mountain to get service to call for help,” Van Setten said.
A second member of the party was on a snowmobile at the time of the avalanche and tried riding it out, Van Setten said.
Blase Reardon, lead avalanche forecaster for the Flathead National Forest, said that rider was not fully buried but did suffer minor injuries.
The area in which the party was snowmobiling is 5 miles from the nearest road.
Authorities received the call a little after 4 p.m.
Searchers were sent up immediately, including two Teton County Sheriff’s Office deputies with snowmobiles, an area avalanche expert, Teton County Search and Rescue, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, the Hi Angle Rescue Team from Fairfield and a few Choteau firemen who were familiar with the area.
Searchers set up a probe line in which they probed the snow with poles. Greyn’s body was found a little after 7 p.m. He had no signs of life but emergency responders attempted to resuscitate him.
A postmortem was being conducted Monday morning to determine the cause of death, Van Setten said.
Greyn was a member of the family that owns the Greyn Fertilizer Supply business, Van Setten said.
Even though the area has not received much snow this winter, avalanche danger is high, Van Setten said. High westerly winds have been numerous, he said.
And those winds have deposited snow from the backside of the mountains into the bowl where the snowmobiling party was recreating, Van Setten said.
“Actually the snow in the area is obviously very unstable,” he said.
The bowl where the avalanche occurred has about 5 feet of snow, Van Setten said.
It appears that members of the snowmobile party was “high-marking,” ascending a slope to the highest point they can reach before running out of power, Van Setten said.
The slope of the hill in that bowl is about 35 degrees, he said.
The case highlights the need for taking precautions when recreating in the backcountry, the sheriff said.
“Whether you are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling, always be cognizant of the snow conditions and also carry the appropriate safety gear and that includes a shovel, probe and a beacon,” he said.
Avalanche packs, he added, are more expensive but can be lifesavers. The feature bags that can be deployed with a rip cord and help keep person above the snow, he said.