Snowboarders rescued after night in snow cave near Vail
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – About 20 Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Vail Mountain Rescue responders rescued two snowboarders Wednesday morning in a search-and-rescue operation that began Tuesday night.
Christin Morton, 25, of Silverthorne, and Ben Engelsen, 25, of Hampton, Va., were rescued off a ridge three miles above Wildridge shortly after 11:45 a.m. Wednesday. The snowboarders spent the night in a snow cave, according to a sheriff’s office statement Wednesday.
The snowboarders had “pretty much shot their energy by the time we got to them,” said Dan Smith, of Vail Mountain Rescue Group.
“They were (stuck) in deep, rotten snow,” Smith said.
Morton and Engelsen planned on snowboarding down from the top of Wildridge before meeting up with a friend, James Czerwien, at the park at Old Trail Road and June Creek Trail. Czerwien waited until 3:30 p.m. for Morton and Engelsen to show up before he went looking for them with his snowmobile – they were scheduled to meet at 3 p.m., according to the statement.
Czerwien called for help around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when he couldn’t find his friends.
Vail Mountain Rescue Group had two, two-person snowmobile teams looking for the missing snowboarders. Czerwien received a text message from his friends at 10 p.m., which said they were OK and had started a campfire.
The snowboarders were advised to call 911 so their location could be determined through Global Positioning System coordinates from the call. Once the coordinates were entered, search teams changed their course but weren’t able to find the missing snowboarders. They suspended the search at 1:30 a.m., resuming at daylight Wednesday.
“You spend a lot of time finding them, then a shorter amount of time extracting them,” Smith said. “We’re spending time going to a place where a wise man would not go.”
Vail Mountain Rescue had three, three-person snowmobile teams out looking by 6 a.m. Wednesday. One of the teams found the snowboarders at 8:15 a.m., about three miles due north of Wildridge.
The rescue team traversed down to the snowboarders and packed a 150-yard trail to a main trail where they were picked up by snowmobiles.
The rescue was over by 11:45 a.m. and other than being cold, both Morton and Engelsen were not injured.
Smith was happy with the mission and said any mission that successfully rescues those missing and gets rescue crews out without injury is a good mission.
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