Snowmass Village police chief had extra motivation for rescue of boys on steep hillside
November 29, 2016
The rescue of two boys from a steep hillside above Snowmass Village on Saturday was far from conventional, but the circumstances were far from ordinary.
Police Chief Brian Olson hiked up the steep hillside himself and helped the boys safely climb to the Rim Trail shortly before sunset. He had extra motivation to assist since one of the boys was his 15-year-old son.
“It was more of a father-son outing than a police rescue,” Olson said.
Whatever the case, Olson took quick action. He said he didn’t follow the usual protocol for a rescue, but he was confident hiking into an area he knows well. Olson said he hiked extensively on the hillside between the village and ridge where the Rim Trail is now located when he first moved to Snowmass Village in the early 1980s, when he was in his early 20s.
“It was more of a father-son outing then a police rescue.” — Brian Olson
He knew the area has lots of cliffs and it was easy for a hiker to get “rimmed out.” His son and a friend were familiar with the terrain but got in a tight spot after they explored a steep bowl, according to Olson. They had a cliff band beneath them and couldn’t immediately spot a way to climb to the Rim Trail.
His son’s companion called 911 and the police officer on duty started coordinating a rescue effort with the Snowmass Village Fire Department. Olson’s son was able to reach Olson by phone and explain the predicament. Olson hooked up with the police officer on duty and they had his son call him via Facetime to help figure out where they were located.
“They were just little dots,” Olson said, noting they were directly above the Woodbridge Condominiums. He estimated the other boy was 40 yards beneath his son.
Olson started off on an old trail behind the Snowmass Center to climb to the boys. He said he followed their footsteps a good portion of the way up and used Facetime to keep track of their location. He skirted cliffs to get in a position where he could reach them. He had his son slide several feet down the barren shale to his position. The three of them then assessed the terrain and picked a route they could climb back to the Rim Trail, a popular route on the ridge high above the village. After about 15 minutes of scrambling and digging into the dirt, they reached the Rim Trail and hiked down to the south trailhead.
They encountered a team from the Fire Department that was hiking to a point on the Rim Trail above the boys with ropes and climbing gear. Olson said the team would have quickly retrieved the boys even if he hadn’t hiked up to them.
No one suffered any injuries. Although the terrain was steep, a slip would have resulted in a tumble on the rocky hillside rather than a free fall, Olson said.
He said he shared a laugh with his son after the incident.
“I asked him, ‘Why aren’t you at home playing Xbox?’” he said.
In reality, Olson said, his family doesn’t own an Xbox and he’s happy his son is chasing adventure.