Missing snowboarder says he ‘froze like crazy’
November 20, 2005
DENVER – Snowboarder John Ryan was credited by rescuers for doing all the right things to survive three days in a snow fort he built at 11,000 feet outside the Keystone Ski Resort, but on Sunday he doubted he would have made it through another night.”I did a lot of praying up there, praying that I would see my family again,” he said in a telephone interview from his bed at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center before being released. “I had no idea exactly where I was.”Ryan, coughing, said he could lose some toes to frostbite. Temperatures had dipped into the low teens and his feet were wet.
He was found Saturday morning, three days after he wandered outside the boundary of the ski resort into an area known as Jones Gulch. When he didn’t show up for work at the Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont on Thursday night he was reported missing by his wife, Karyn, and fellow employees.His car was found in the Keystone parking lot 60 miles west of Denver, and the resort determined that he had last used a lift ticket at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A search was launched inside the boundaries of the ski area.”It was my third run of the day. I was doing some tree skiing. I was trying to go over to another lift but it wasn’t there. Then I knew I was lost. I tried to walk out but the snow was hip deep. So I sat on a tree branch, coming out of the base of a tree. Froze like crazy,” he said.
Ryan used pine boughs to build a snow fort and climbed inside. He didn’t have the energy to try to wade through the snow, and it snowed Thursday and Friday nights.On Friday he could hear snowmobiles in the distance and sirens. He also saw a search helicopter. “Friday night was the worst of all. It was really cold.”The next day he tried walking out again but only made it 20 feet before returning to the fort. He heard nothing and feared rescuers had given up on him. “I didn’t know the length of time someone could live [in such conditions]. So I didn’t know if they would give up.”
Later he heard shouts nearby, and he called out to them.”We were just skiing down and happened upon him,” Benjamin Yolda told the Daily Times-Call of Longmont. “He was happy to see us. I thought a tree had fallen on him, because he had popped his head out from all these branches,” said Yolda.”They said I should go buy a Lotto ticket while I am still lucky,” said Ryan.