Fall of 1,500 feet on Wyoming mountain kills Alaska snowboarder

Alex DeMarban

One of the last acts in the life of backcountry snowboarder Joseph Lohr was a thoughtful one, when on Sunday he separated from his friends to help his father safely descend a ski route in Teton Pass.

Joseph's parents, longtime Anchorage residents Celia Foley and Bob Lohr, had flown to Jackson, Wyoming, in part to help their 24-year-old son move to that city and to ski with him in Grand Teton National Park.

During an outing with family and friends on Sunday, Bob Lohr had trouble skiing with a pair of all-terrain racing skis a friend had loaned him. That's when Joseph, a graduate of West High School in Anchorage, changed his plans to descend the steep Glory Bowl route with his friends and instead followed his father down to safe ground.

"Joseph was concerned about my safety," said Bob Lohr, his voice breaking. "He was watching out for me. It was very selfless and that was emblematic of Joseph. Everyone you talk to will tell you he was that kind of guy."

Joseph Lohr died the next morning on another outing, after summiting 12,325-foot Teewinot Mountain with two friends. During the descent, after making some turns, he somehow lost control and tumbled about 1,500 feet, said his father, speaking by phone from Jackson on Tuesday.

Along with his friends, Joseph was safety-conscious and skilled in backcountry descents, the National Park Service said in a statement, citing his father.

Joseph had encouraged his family and friends the night before his death not to have a drink with dinner, his father said. "He said, 'Let's not have a drink because we'll be getting up early the next morning, and it will be easier to wake up if we don't.'"

Joseph wore a helmet, but suffered severe head trauma during the fall. He remained alive until the afternoon, unconscious but still breathing. His friends did all they could to keep him alive, removing some of their own clothing to warm him, keeping his airway open so he could breathe, monitoring his pulse and talking to him.

"You couldn't ask for more caring, committed people to be there with him," said Lohr, who also thanked rescue crews that arrived later.

Rangers with the park reached Joseph on skis not long before he died at about 4 p.m. Because of weather, a helicopter was unable to hoist him out.

Joseph moved to Salt Lake City after high school about five years ago and graduated from Westminster College with an environmental studies degree. He had recently worked at a Salt Lake City rock gym. Joseph's body will be cremated in Jackson, and the family plans to hold celebrations of life in Salt Lake City as well as Anchorage, where his friends and family can share memories of him.

In Salt Lake City, friends will be invited to "share a hike with Joseph's spirit" as part of the memorial, Bob Lohr said. In lieu of flowers, they're asking people to donate money to the Utah Avalanche Center.

"Joseph lived his life to the fullest," Bob Lohr said. "And we hope his friends will live like he lived but will also keep on living."

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex@alaskadispatch.com.