Teton County Search and Rescue responds to missing skier at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort


Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers responded yesterday and today in the search for a missing skier at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Twenty-eight volunteers took part in the effort, working with ski patrol and rangers from Grand Teton National Park. The teams used skis, snowmobiles and a helicopter in searching for the skier, who eventually was found dead in bounds on the resort’s upper mountain. In all, approximately 90 personnel responded.

TCSAR received a call for help at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, after Zephyr Rapinchuk, 18, of Northampton, Mass., went missing. He was last seen by skiing companions around 2:30pm at the base of Cheyenne Bowl and Rendezvous Trail. Based on the evening weather — no storms, little wind, good visibility — the planning team decided to search for Rapinchuk.

The entire team was paged at 10 p.m., as backcountry skiers were needed. Volunteers headed to the resort with snowmobiles and backcountry gear. A few teams headed up on sleds to an area known as “Paradise Lost,” at the bottom of Cheyenne Gully near the resort’s south boundary at about 8,500 feet. Those volunteers then skinned uphill.

Meanwhile, a few other teams joined ski patrollers and took the tram and grooming snowcats to the top of Cheyenne Bowl and skied down. No sign of Rapinchuk was found, and at 2 a.m. the search was called off. The plan was to resume at first light, searching the backcountry around the resort.

The planning team regrouped at 5:30 a.m. TCSAR helicopter was flying by 7:45 and searched for 1.5 hours before ice buildup on the rotors made flying unsafe.

At 9 a.m., a team of skiers and snowmobilers was called out. By 10:30, volunteers assembled to search well-known out-of-bounds areas: Rock Springs, Green River, Cody Bowl, Four Pines and Pinedale Bowl. Sleds were sent up Granite Canyon to work with Grand Teton National Park.

At 1 p.m., the planning team turned to phase two: TCSAR skiers concentrated on searching in bounds, starting at the resort’s south boundary and working north. At 1:29, dispatch received a 911 call from a member of the public who reported potentially seeing the victim at the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl near the closed East Ridge chairlift.

At 1:42 p.m., searchers identified the victim as Rapinchuk, and ski patrollers transported his body to the Teton Village Clinic, where he was pronounced dead.

The resort later released a statement saying patrollers determined that Rapinchuk likely collided with a tree. His body was found in an island of trees below Hanging Rock Traverse, the resort said.

“The staff at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort join me in expressing our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased,” resort president Jerry Blann said in the statement.