Skiers separated on hut trip, but all safe
Two backcountry skiers got separated from a third, more experienced colleague on a trip to Opa’s Hut on Monday and the pair got concerned their friend was headed into danger and called authorities, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Mountain Rescue Aspen confirmed that the man made it to Opa’s Hut safely, then tried to communicate with him without luck, deputy Ryan Turner said.
The saga unfolded Monday when the men started skiing up Express Creek Road, Turner said. All three men are from the Front Range. The more experienced skier got ahead of the other two, and he picked a route to Opa’s Hut that the pair were unfamiliar with, according to their report to authorities. They saw him in the distance and tried unsuccessfully to yell at him.
“They thought, ‘This guy has his signals crossed,’” Turner said. “They felt he was headed to an avalanche area.”
The men skied back down, traveled down Castle Creek Valley and called the Sheriff’s Office from Aspen Valley Hospital at about 4:53 p.m. Mountain Rescue Aspen was notified of the situation and they had a fixed-wing airplane in the sky by 6:37 p.m. and spotted a man at the cabin at 6:52 p.m., Turner said.
The crew in the plane dropped a radio that landed about 30 yards from the cabin, but the man didn’t spot it, Turner said. No further action was taken because the man appeared safe, though he was likely curious about the whereabouts of his colleagues.
“We don’t have any way to communicate with him,” Turner said. The deputy put a tag on the man’s car explaining the situation and asking for a call.
The man who skied to the hut was approximately 55 years of age. The other men were either in the 50s or 60s, Turner said.
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Aspen Skiing Co. officials made a tag-team appeal to the Pitkin County Commissioners Wednesday urging approval for the proposed expansion of the Pandora’s terrain and other projects on Aspen Mountain. The commissioners continued the hearing until Aug. 28, when a vote is possible.