ASPEN - A Carbondale couple spent two cold, wet nights in a snow cave over the weekend, spurring a search by Aspen rescuers before the two individuals reached the hut that was their destination on Sunday.
The duo, described as experienced backcountry skiers, were en route to meet four companions at the Goodwin-Greene Hut, south of Aspen, on Friday evening when they became lost in a blizzard. One of them was able to send a text message to his brother indicating they were lost, but planned to dig a snow cave and "hunker down," according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. The names of the skiers were not released.
On Saturday morning, the skiers sent another text indicating they were holding their position, followed by another message at about noon seeking a weather report. When no further communication followed, the brother notified authorities and a Mountain Rescue Aspen team was activated, according to the sheriff's office.
Rescuers sent out a team of two snowmobilers Saturday afternoon in an attempt to locate the couple. The team reported near-zero visibility and high winds, and took shelter in a cabin about a mile short of the hut before returning to town. There was no further word from the missing skiers on Saturday.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., Mountain Rescue deployed two teams to resume the search. One team of four snowmobilers headed to the hut via Richmond Ridge, off the summit of Aspen Mountain, while a team of four backcountry skiers was sent toward the hut via Express Creek Road, which splits off from Castle Creek Road south of Aspen.
A text message received by family members after 7 a.m. on Sunday indicated the couple was OK and headed to the hut. Rescuers skiing toward the hut were summoned back to town, while the snowmobile team continued to the Goodwin-Greene to make contact with the hut group. The overdue skiers were tired, but in good spirits, the sheriff's office reported in a press release issued Monday.
Rescuers returned to town and the hut group skied out via Richmond Ridge rather than taking their originally planned route out the Express Creek drainage because of high avalanche danger.
The Goodwin-Greene Hut is part of the Braun and Friends Hut System, and is managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. It is located near timberline, at 11,680 feet, at the head of the Difficult Creek drainage, about 12 miles south of the Aspen Mountain Ski Area.