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Doug Coombs killed today in avalanche.... - Page 2

post #31 of 46
This is heartbreaking news. Doug was much loved and respected by the ski industry and by those who had the chance to ski with him and learn from him. We will miss him.


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post #32 of 46
BTW, reports coming out of La Grave now say the other American was Chad Vander Ham of Silverthorn, CO.

This is too eire, I skied 6 days in in La Grave in February. I choose to skip one run one afternoon as my legs were getting tired and I wanted to save some energy. It ends up, that run is the one that took Doug.
post #33 of 46
Very sad news ... and now it seems that he died trying to rescue a ski companion. Wow, what a special person he must have been!
post #34 of 46
Doug Coombs loved life and shared it with others. Nothing but the highest respect for Doug Coombs.

"No, seriously. There's a nice couloir down here."
Doug Coombs

In celebration of his life.

Get me Doug Coombs
post #35 of 46


...a huge loss for the skiing world...
Sure was one of a kind...
post #36 of 46
RIP Doug.
post #37 of 46
RIP Doug...you were a good buddy and I appreciate and value the time we all got to spend with you.
post #38 of 46
Rest in peace. Condolences to his family and friends.
post #39 of 46
That really sucks!

What pisses me off even more, is that some boob can lawn-dart himself off a cliff, land on his head and live, and Doug ends it all by trying to help someone. Not that I would have wished death on Jamie Pierre (or whatever his name is), but life (and death) just ain't fair!:

I feel sick for his wife and kid. I can't imagine what they are going through.
post #40 of 46

I'm so sorry

I sincerely hope the grace of God helps ease his family's pain. Doug is forever skiing endless champagne powder lines on heaven's untouched faces.
post #41 of 46
Just seemed like blasphemy to let this thread drop to the bottom of the page so soon.
Bump -
for Doug.
post #42 of 46
Originally Posted by carvemeister
Just seemed like blasphemy to let this thread drop to the bottom of the page so soon.
Bump -
for Doug.
Agree to that...this was the latest account of the incident in yesterday's JH Daily News

Coombs dies in fall over cliff
Skier slipped on rocks while trying to help friend who fell down gully in France.
By Jim Stanford

In the end, the man regarded by many as the greatest skier in the world simply lost an edge.

Doug Coombs, the Jackson Hole mountaineer and guide who took the sports of skiing and climbing to new heights, died Monday in the French Alps after slipping and falling over a cliff while trying to aid a friend who had plunged over the same precipice. He was 48 years old.

Chad VanderHam, 31, of Colorado later died of his injuries in the incident, which occurred near the resort of La Grave, about 50 miles east of Grenoble in southeast France. Coombs guided skiers at La Grave and also operated steep skiing camps there with his wife, Emily. He was skiing with friends at the time of the accident.

French authorities confirmed the deaths Tuesday and gave a basic account of the incident. Miles Smart, a friend of Coombs’ and colleague at Exum Mountain Guides in Jackson Hole, provided further details in a telephone interview Tuesday from La Grave, where he had been guiding with Coombs this winter and had spoken with a member of the ski party.

Coombs was one of four skiers, all Americans, descending the Couloir de Polichinelle, a steep chute that winds through cliffs and ends in a 200-foot drop, Smart said. To avoid the last cliff, skiers must traverse to the left at the bottom and exit via another chute, said Smart, who skied the Couloir de Polichinelle on Tuesday and inspected the scene of the accident.
VanderHam went first and disappeared from sight. Coombs skied next, saw that VanderHam had fallen over the cliff and yelled to the other two skiers above – Matt Farmer and Christina Bloomquist – to bring a rope.

“Doug skied down to the edge of the cliff and was sidestepping down on some rocks, to try to get a view of Chad, and Matt Farmer saw him slip a little bit,” Smart said.
“He was down on rock slab and wasn’t able to reset an edge because it was all rock slab below him,” Smart said.
Some snow covered the rock where Coombs likely slipped. “He lost his edge when he was peering over the lip, trying to get a view of Chad,” Smart said.

In all, the two skiers fell about 1,500 feet over rocks and steep slopes. Coombs was not breathing and had no pulse when rescuers arrived, Smart said. VanderHam, who likely had lost control when he hit a patch of ice near the bottom of the couloir, was unconscious and breathing but could not be revived, Smart said.

VanderHam and Farmer were aspiring mountain guides, while Bloomquist is an old friend who has been skiing at La Grave for years, Smart said.

Memorial fund set up
Emily Coombs was at the couple’s home in La Grave on Tuesday with their 3-year-old son, David, and was “doing alright” under the circumstances, Smart said. An account has been set up for the family at Jackson State Bank and Trust and the Web site www.dougcoombsmemo rialfund.com.
News of Coombs’ death sent waves of shock and grief through Jackson Hole and the ski world, where Coombs was revered as a hero. His death came a day after the final public run of the aerial tram in winter, and skiers lamented the loss of two icons of Jackson Hole nearly at once.
“A Legend Falls,” read the Web site of Powder magazine, where stories and photos of Coombs often graced the pages.

Mark Newcomb, a senior Exum guide, summed up the sentiment of the community: “It’s going to take a long time to finally sink in,” he said.
Newcomb and Coombs were friends who climbed and skied together in the Tetons. “We shared that passion of being in the mountains and challenging ourselves, certainly,” Newcomb said. “But I don’t think anyone can match Doug’s passion. He was out there so often and always having so much fun and sharing that with everybody.
“That kind of enthusiasm and passion is probably something we will see only very rarely, if we ever see it again, in a person,” Newcomb said.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort owner Connie Kemmerer released a statement praising Coombs for inspiring guests and staff with his teachings and adventures.
“For me, Doug was Jackson Hole,” Kemmerer said. “... He will be missed every day.”

Gracious, inspiring
Porter Fox, a Powder editor and former sports editor of the Jackson Hole News, recalled writing his first ski stories about Coombs in the mid-1990s. “He was nothing but gracious and inspiring, always,” Fox said.
Fox said Coombs had a purity of spirit, form and vision. “There was not one part of him that wasn’t completely devoted to skiing, and you felt it and were inspired from it when you were around him,” Fox said. “He was truly the best skier ever.”

Coombs was born in Boston and grew up skiing in Vermont and New Hampshire. He later moved to Bozeman, Mont., to ski at the Big Sky and Bridger Bowl resorts and attend college at Montana State University, where he was a ski racer. After earning a degree in geology, he moved to Jackson Hole in 1986 and began guiding for High Mountain Heli-Skiing.
Coombs was a two-time winner of the World Extreme Skiing Championships in Alaska and served as ski ambassador for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the early 1990s. He and his wife founded a heli-skiing business in Valdez, Alaska, where they would go each spring and pioneered hundreds of ski routes.

His feats in the Tetons included the first ski descent of the Otter Body Snowfield on the Grand Teton with Newcomb in June 1996; the first ski descent of the CMC Route on Mount Moran with Hans Johnstone in 2002; and taking clients on the first guided ski descent of the Grand Teton in 2004.
In his 1994 book Driving to Greenland, a collection of winter adventures, author Peter Stark called Coombs “The Dean of Flow.” He marveled at Coombs casually slipping between obstacles.
“To see him ski is to see fluidity, as if he were a droplet of water trickling down a rough plaster wall,” Stark wrote.

La Grave, the tiny French village with a no-frills ski area, had become a second home to the Coombs family over the last 10 years. The Alpine resort, home of the La Meije massif, boasts 7,000-vertical-foot runs and unlimited off-piste terrain that captivated Coombs’ imagination. The resort has only one lift, a two-tiered gondola called le telepherique, and has no grooming, no boundaries, no trail maps or ski patrol.

Endless ski runs.

“When I first arrived at La Grave and stared at the majestic glaciated peak of La Meije (13,065 feet), I imagined endless ski runs that would last a lifetime,” Coombs stated on his Web site.
After a fallout with the Jackson Hole resort in 1997, Doug and Emily Coombs brought their steep skiing camps to La Grave and Verbier, Switzerland. The couple retained a home in Jackson Hole and spent a good portion of the summer, fall and early winter here.
Doug Coombs often spoke at ski-related events and shared slide shows of his adventures. He was a regular presenter at Skinny Skis’ annual Avalanche Awareness Night, which promotes backcountry safety. On New Year’s Day this year, he brought his toddler son to Snow King to ski from the top of the Summit Chairlift.

Exum’s Newcomb said while it’s natural for people to conclude that death is an inevitable fate for someone who plays in extreme terrain, in this case special circumstances were at work that may have affected Coombs’ instincts.
Newcomb compared Coombs’ climbing and skiing of hair-raising couloirs to a city person savvy about walking the streets, knowing which neighborhoods to avoid and how to behave so as not to draw attention.
Coombs always was conscious of the consequences of a fall in such terrain, and that mind-set “forces a precision and a control,” Newcomb said.

“In this situation, I have to think that the added level of adrenaline in watching his friend go down and wanting to do something ... might have made that sixth sense slightly off-kilter,” Newcomb said.
“I’m absolutely sure that if his friend had not fallen, he would have skied right past that ice, and it would have been just another run on a great day.”
post #43 of 46
Bump for Doug...kinda surprised that this thread isn't sticky.:

Nice memorial to Doug in Pics...and Matt Farmer's first hand account below (warning-graphic)


The following email from the AMGA provides a pretty detailed account of what happened. While some details have been coming to light since the first incorrect reports of an avalanche this report outlines the entire incident, first hand.

AMGA Member

Here is a report from Matt Farmer on the accident involving Chad
VanderHam and Doug Coombs. If you are not interested or uncomfortable
with reading the details of the accident please do not read any

La Grave, France 16:45 April 3, 2006

Christina Blomquist, Doug Coombs, Chad Vanderham, and I (Matt Farmer),
descended from the top of the Telepherique de la Meije to ski the "Le
Polichinelle" Couloir.

This route maintains an average steepness of 40-45 degrees through a
series of three successive couloirs linked by leftward traverses at
the base of each chute. The couloirs get progressively longer, from
approximately 40 to 100 meters, before a final leftward traverse
leads to mellower lower angled gullies which feed back into the apron
below the couloir. The base of the third chute is approximately 3-4
meters wide and exposed to the top of the final cliff which is about
50 meters high. Below this cliff is a small couloir to the right and
a 15-20 meter cliff to the left which both end up at the top of the
snow apron below the main couloir system. 30-40 cm of untracked
light snow was well bonded to a base of firm neve. General stability
of the snow pack was good and the hazard rating for the day was a 2
on the French scale. Weather conditions were beautiful, the sky
clear and blue without clouds or wind.

Chad descended the first couloir and waited to the left of the base
as Doug skied, followed by me and then Christina one at a time. Doug
traversed left and skied the second chute followed by Chad, then
myself and Christina. Chad led the third couloir which curves right
out of view of the starting point. Doug skied next and was
subsequently followed by Christina.

Just as Christina entered the middle of the top of the third couloir
Doug yelled up that "Chad fell, come down with a rope."

I traversed into the middle of the couloir to the point at which I
could see down to Doug who was side stepping down a rock rib below
and right of the constriction at the base of the couloir. Christina
and I saw Doug yelling Chad’s name while side stepping down and
attempting to see over the cliff to his right. We saw his skis slip
on the rock and he fell out of view over the rib.

I skied down to the constriction and carefully continued down softer
snow left of the rock rib that Doug had been standing on. I
continued along side the rock rib, sidestepping down and right on
snow to within 2 meters of where Chad's ski was sticking
vertically in the snow at the top of the cliff. From this vantage
point I could see Chad's body approximately 150 meters below on
the apron of snow below the cliff at the base of the couloir.
Doug's body was also visible, motionless, but sliding slowly
down the apron coming to rest about 30 meters beside Chad.

At this point, 17:29, I called the Haute Alps rescue services for a
helicopter and then (17:33) called a local guide friend to confirm
the helicopter dispatch and set other resources in motion. I
directed Christina down, through the crux constriction, and left
towards the exit into the mellower gullies that feed back into the
apron below the central cliff at the base of the third couloir. I
side stepped and boot packed 15 meters back up to the left exit and
proceeded down.

I arrived at Doug first, at about 17:40, as he was slightly higher on
the slope than Chad. I repositioned Doug, who was lying on his
right side, bent at the waist and facing up hill with his skis off.
There were no immediately obvious major injuries or deformities. He
was pulse less, with out respirations. His eyes were open, pupils
fixed and dilated. His lips were yellowish gray and his right ear
purple. I preformed rescue breaths and CPR for approximately two
minutes by which time Christina had arrived at Chad and declared that
he was breathing. I left Doug, who had no indications of response
and moved downhill 20 meters to Chad.

Chad was lying face down in the snow with his feet facing up hill.
We carefully reoriented him and opened his airway. His breaths were
regular and deep, his pulse strong and about 90 bpm. He had much
coagulated blood in his nose, his eyes and lips were slightly swollen
and discolored. Chad's pupils were equal and responsive to
light but he was unresponsive to shouting or pain. Christina
returned to Doug while I maintained Chad's airway, giving
occasional rescue breaths, until the helicopter arrived at 18:03.
Three members of the PGHM were lowered to the scene with their
equipment and began administering an IV to Chad. We installed an
oral airway in Chad's mouth and placed him in a rescue sled.
By this time Chad's facial edema was pronounced but his
breathing and pulse were still strong and he had begun to move his
arm and squeeze my hand in response to my own squeezes. As the
doctor began administering medicine to Chad, I returned to Doug to
resume CPR. The helicopter returned in 10 or 15 minutes to transport
Chad to a hospital in Briancon, 30 kilometers east. At this time one
of the two remaining PGHM informed us that the doctor had already
declared Doug dead. We replied that we knew and continued CPR for
another 20 or 30 minutes. The helicopter returned and transported
Christina and me back to La Grave. We were met by Jean Charles of La
Meije and brought to where many of our friends had gathered. While
debriefing the current situation with them the local police arrived
to take a statement and during this process we were informed that
Chad was dead as well.

--- End of Matt Farmer Report and AMGA email ---
post #44 of 46
a big loss for all, but none more than his family. there is a memorial fund to donate to his family at www.dougcoombsmemorialfund.com and there are also some nice words from mark newcomb.

i've read a ton about what a great guy doug was and although i only met and skied with him once, I will always remember how much he loved what he did. He was one of those truly happy, nice people. but most importantly, the word of people who knew him well, rang so true to myself- who only spent a few hours on the slope with him. But in that short time, he never stopped smiling, always was positive and confidence inspiring. a truly great guy.

post #45 of 46
...I am so deeply effected by this news... My heart and condolences to the many that Doug has touched...
post #46 of 46
Originally Posted by catskills
Doug Coombs loved life and shared it with others. Nothing but the highest respect for Doug Coombs.

"No, seriously. There's a nice couloir down here."
Doug Coombs

In celebration of his life.

Get me Doug Coombs
Catslills: Thanks for the link to the Powder magazine article. The run described in the article, filmed by Warren Miller productions. Was that in (Higher Ground) or sometthing that is comming out in the future?

I only rented higher ground so now I can't remember the run!
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