Josh Roth, the Wyoming snowmobiler killed Thursday in a Bonneville County avalanche, was a veteran of the sport known for his backcountry expertise and friendly nature.
The 35-year-old was killed after the snowmobile he was riding late Thursday morning was caught in an avalanche in the McCoy Creek area, near Palisades Reservoir and the Wyoming state line, said Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Bryan Lovell. Roth and a friend had been riding in an off-trail section, “playing around on some hills,” Lovell said.
Roth’s friend saw the avalanche and was able to locate Roth using an avalanche beacon. Roth was buried under two to three feet of snow and his riding partner was able to dig him out, call for help via cellphone and begin CPR, Lovell said. The call was made at about 11:40 a.m.
Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputies along with Lincoln County Wyoming Search and Rescue and Air Idaho Rescue responded. It was shortly determined that Roth had succumbed to his injuries. Deputies and search and rescue personnel recovered Roth’s body and transported him to the Alpine area, a sheriff’s news release said.
Lovell said the region continues to experience “extreme avalanche risk,” in large part due to this winter’s deep snowpack and big temperature swings creating unstable layers below the surface. The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center said a warning remained in effect Friday and into the weekend for Bonneville and Teton counties.
“These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen and these are the times you just say ‘no’ and stay home,” Tony Jenkins, an Idaho Falls professional snowmobiler and friend of Roth, wrote on Facebook. “We lost another person today and this one is going to hit us hard.”
Jenkins called Roth “a great rider/ambassador to this sport.”
Roth owned Hoback Peak Outfitters in Alpine, Wyo. He organized snowmobile clinics for every level in the winter, guided bear hunters in the spring, fly fishermen in the summer and big game hunters in the fall, according to his website and videos.
He had broad experience in different backcountry snow conditions, and was certified in avalanche safety and awareness, his website said.
“Josh Roth was friends with everyone,” said a tribute posted on the Idaho Falls-based snowmobile website SnoWest. “He always had a smile on his face. He would always take the time to stop and talk with anyone, no matter your ‘status.’ Simply put, he was as good as they come.”
The article said Roth was the “LAST guy any of us would picture this happening to,” given his knowledge and “mindset to play it safe.”
On Instagram, Roth posted frequent photos and videos of himself catching air on his snowmobile, or teaching skills to those less experienced in the sport.
His last post, a video taken Thursday morning while driving to the trail, showed he was wary of the dangerous backcountry snow conditions in recent days, due to warming temperatures and rain.
The video showed avalanches near the road that occurred the night before. “Entire hillsides moving last night,” Roth wrote, adding the backcountry safety hashtag “#knowbeforeyougo.”
While he guided hunters and anglers in the warmer months, Roth said in a video he always looked forward to snowmobiling and his “favorite season” — winter.
“I love getting back here, into the mountains and the trees,” he said.