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Skier dies in fluke fall on Teton Pass

Friends remember Douthitt, 28, as avid outdoorsman with zest for life.

By Carolyn Smith

It will take more than a heavy snowfall to cover Tuesday's tragedy on Teton Pass.

Just after 11 a.m., a man who friends say lived to ski the pass was declared dead at its summit.

Jeff Douthitt, an experienced mountaineer and skier, fell on his broken ski pole, punctured his femoral artery and bled to death on the powdery slopes of the Second Turn run.

Douthitt, 28, was originally from College Park, Pa. Friends couldn't seem to concur on whether he had lived in Jackson for three or four years, but all agreed on one aspect of Douthitt's life.

"He always wanted to get out there and do whatever could be done," his roommate Mark Fellerman said.

Fellerman described Douthitt as one of his closest friends, and fellow roommate Noah Reiten agreed. "We lost a piece of our family," Reiten said.

Douthitt was skiing with two friends Tuesday when he apparently hit some old ski tracks hidden in the powder and lost control, Teton County Search and Rescue volunteer Tim Ciocarlan said.

A spot of blood was found in the snow at Douthitt's first point of impact, but he was found 50 feet below where he started falling, Ciocarlan said.

Douthitt was unconscious by the time his two ski partners reached him, only 400 yards from Wyoming 22, said Doug Meyer, Teton County Search and Rescue coordinator.

His friends started hiking up the slope after hearing Douthitt scream. They began administering CPR as soon as they reached Douthitt.

Teton County Search and Rescue was paged at 9:45 p.m.

Once Douthitt was pulled off the slope, rescue volunteers administered CPR for 30 minutes, but Douthitt never regained consciousness, Meyer said.

Teton County Coroner Bob Campbell said a ski pole that likely broke during Douthitt's fall punctured his femoral artery about six inches above his knee. Although it only took Douthitt's ski partners about 10 minutes to hike to their friend, the man probably had lost too much blood already, Campbell said.

Meyer said there was no evidence that Douthitt was skiing out of control. "It looks like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Meyer said. "I don't think there are any lessons that could have been learned here."

Ciocarlan said the accident couldn't be considered specific to skiing in the backcountry. "I don't think it was the conditions or the speed or anything," Ciocarlan said. "This is an accident that could have happened anywhere. This guy just took a fall, and a tragic thing happened."

Ciocarlan, one of 14 Search and Rescue volunteers to respond to the accident, said none of the men in the ski group made any mistakes.

Several volunteers commented that Douthitt "did everything right, and his buddies did everything right," Ciocarlan said. "It was just a freak accident."

Friends described Douthitt as an avid skier, climber, mountain biker and paraglider. He worked as a waiter at the Rendezvous Bistro, where co-workers gathered in shock Tuesday after learning of the accident.

Bistro co-owner Gavin Fine called Douthitt a "serious outdoorsman."

"He lived every day to its fullest," Fine said. "Everybody loved him. He passed away smiling."

Fine said Douthitt loved life in Jackson.

"He was proud to be here," Fine said, recounting how happy Douthitt was to introduce his parents to Jackson last summer.

Fine said Douthitt always had a story or experience to share, such as tales of climbing the Grand Teton and how he had just achieved certification for paragliding.

"He was the kind of guy who used Jackson's outlets to their fullest," Fine said.

Zach Fine remembered Douthitt as a man who was "at the zenith of his vibrancy," an athlete, friend and a "wonderful, wonderful person."

Co-worker Alex Clayton said Douthitt rode his bike everywhere he went. "He was a fun guy to have around," Clayton said. "We definitely lost a good person."

NEXT: Chairlift Kills Skier
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