Boarder faces charge after night rescue
A Denver area resident was cold and tired but unhurt after beingrescued from the backcountry near Aspen Highlands early Thursdaymorning.Snowboarder Rhett Bain, 33, was escorted off the mountain by membersof the Highlands Ski Patrol and Mountain Rescue Aspen after hisscreams for help were heard by an employee of T Lazy 7 Ranch Wednesdayevening. He was charged by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s OfficeThursday with skiing in a closed area.Tom Grady, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’sOffice, said the official charge is “skiing on a slope or trailthat has been posted as closed.” Bain could be fined up to $300and sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.Bain’s two companions reported him missing at about 7:30 p.m.Wednesday, just before his cries were heard. Bain was unable tofind his way down the mountain through an area of cliffs and avalanchechutes, Grady said. He was said to be an experienced snowboarder,but unfamiliar with the area.Bain reportedly told sheriff’s office personnel he had been caughtin two separate avalanches before he realized he was unable tofind his way. Grady said Bain was in serious trouble when he wasfound, because he was 2,000 feet below the ski area and had noway to climb back up. He was also in danger of exposure to coldtemperatures because he was wearing only lightweight ski clothing.Mountain Rescue President Debbie Kelly said the rescuers, threeHighlands patrollers and three Mountain Rescue volunteers, gotBain to the valley bottom shortly after 2 a.m. They arrived atMaroon Lake Road about one mile south of the point where snowplowingends. She said rescuers carried snowshoes to Bain to ease histravel from the base of the mountain to the road.Grady said about 30 people from Mountain Rescue, the Sheriff’sOffice and the Highlands Ski Patrol were involved in the rescueand spent an estimated 300 man hours in all to bring Bain to safety.About $150 was spent on Bain’s rescue, for miscellaneous expenses,including feeding the rescuers. The sheriff’s department willapply for reimbursement from the U.S. Forest Service, which getsfunds from hunting and fishing licenses to help defray rescueexpenses. However, Grady said, the chances of claiming any ofthat funding for this type of rescue are poor.Kelly said Bain got into his predicament by violating a coupleof basic rules. Knowing one’s route and skiing with a companionwill go a long way toward preventing the need for a rescue, shesaid.”It’s always our hope that when people read about an incidentlike this,” Kelly said, “they will think twice about skiing orsnowboarding in an area they don’t know.”The Colorado Avalanche Information Center Thursday listed theavalanche danger in the state’s central mountains as moderate,both above and below tree line. That means that while naturalavalanches are unlikely, human-triggered slides are possible,especially on slopes of 35 degrees or greater.Rob Hunker of the Western Slope Avalanche Forecast Office saidanyone doing any backcountry skiing or snowboarding should checkthe local avalanche hotline, 920-1664, before leaving.Winter backcountry travelers should always exercise caution onslopes greater than 30 degrees, because slides triggered by skiersare always possible. According to a report from the AvalancheForecast Office, leeward – or down-wind – slopes still carry agreater snow load as a result of last Monday’s storm, and thereforepresent a greater danger.
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