Ski patrol saves the day, literally
January 16, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoKudos to the Snowmass ski patrol for its successful rescue of a lost snowboarder last weekend.A dozen patrollers braved falling temperatures through the night of Jan. 13-14 in an all-out search for the missing man.The victim in this case was a Boulder resident who had ventured through the backcountry gate at the top of Longshot run on Snowmass into an uncontrolled section of Burnt Mountain. He quickly became separated from his guide, a local resident, and ended up riding past the cutoff point where riders and skiers need to stop and traverse out to safety.As he descended into a narrowing ravine, the snowboarder realized he was in too deep and decided to climb out. After three hours of postholing his way up and out, the missing man was mired in deep snow and still hours away from safety. At 4:45 p.m., his girlfriend and the guide who had lost track of him alerted authorities. The rescue took approximately eight hours. Members of the ski patrol who had been at work all day began a rescue effort that went deep into the night. They split into two teams and began making methodical sweeps down Burnt Mountain, searching for the set of tracks that belonged to the missing Boulder man.Small slides came down around them as the night wore on. The temperature dropped to zero. They continued to search, despite the risk. The rescue teams made seven sweeps apiece before they got on the tail of the Boulder man, who was still walking out.At 1:15 a.m. Sunday they caught up with the missing man, who was within striking distance of safety. After rendering the immediate assistance necessary, the patrol walked the rest of the way out with him. According to Aspen Skiing Co. officials, the man was hypothermic at the time. No one knows if he would have survived if help hadn’t shown up.Most days, the ski patrol on all four mountains is a low-key presence that most take for granted. It’s only when people get stuck, lost or injured that their expertise comes into play. The women and men who wear the red jackets are professionals – the real deal. Last weekend on Snowmass, that professionalism was comfortingly apparent.