A world-class rescue team | AspenTimes.com

A world-class rescue team

Dear Editor:

Before the 2009-10 winter season gets too far behind us, I want to acknowledge folks for their help, and remember a couple who we will miss greatly.

I have had the privilege of being the president for Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) for the last six-plus years. This winter has been one of the busier ones in memory. Fortunately, most of the outcomes of our operations this season have been good – folks we went after were rescued, helped or were fine after all.

Unfortunately, we will miss two good friends of the team and the community this year who were taken from us by avalanches – Heidi Kloos and Joseph John Kelly.

I am endlessly humbled by the grit, determination, mountain skill and caring that members of MRA show in putting themselves out to help anyone who might be in trouble in our beautiful and dangerous backcountry. That may go without saying, but I’ll say it again anyway.

Our policy is not to identify which team member did what in any mission – MRA operates as a team. (Thanks to the local press for their efforts to honor this.) Nevertheless, these people are impressive! What may not be as obvious is that MRA is the confluence of the caring of our community as a whole. We could not do what we do without many others who pitch in. We get a lot of help.

Thank you to the Aspen Skiing Co. for helping us this year by providing avalanche search dogs for the recovery at the Lindley Hut. The Skico teams who went into the field with us may well have saved us many days of probing, assuming we could find the subject at all in that huge debris field! The ski patrol in general are a huge part of the winter backcountry response effort.

Thank you to Doug Sheffer and the DBS helicopter team, who, year after year, make our jobs orders of magnitudes easier. St. Anthony’s Flight for Life program gets a big shout-out, too.

Thank you to Bob Braudis, Joe DiSalvo and Tom Grady of the sheriff’s office for your unflinching support and trusting us to do our jobs. Thank you to the Pitkin County commissioners, the Aspen City Council and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation for your continuing financial support. Thanks to all who participated in our annual avalanche workshop. And thank you to all of those folks who contribute money to help keep us trained, equipped and rescue-ready 365/24/7.

I don’t know if it takes a village to raise a child. But it takes a community like ours to field a world-class rescue team. MRA has about 50 full-time members. That is more than either the Aspen Fire Department or any single police agency in the upper valley. With no paid staff and no fixed tax base, we are successful only because of our community’s support.

It is a privilege to serve you.

Hugh Zuker

president, MRA

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