Happy ending for stranded snowmobiler who didn’t come home Sunday night
Vail Mountain Rescue finds Avon man alive, uninjured near Sylvan Lake after a night in the wilderness
With the rest of Eagle County hunkering down on Sunday night, volunteers with Vail Mountain Rescue Group headed out to find a missing man.
Thanks for the volunteer rescue crew, the man, 49, of Avon, is OK.
At 8:20 p.m. Sunday, a woman called the Vail Public Safety Communications Center to report that her husband was past due to return home after heading out alone at noon that day to go snowmobiling in the Sylvan Lake area south of Eagle.
Deputies from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office headed up first to search and found the man’s vehicle near Crooked Creek Pass Road. That told rescuers the man was still in the field, Vail Mountain Rescue said in its announcement.
At 9:42 p.m., the Vail Mountain Rescue Group was rallied to aid in the search. Volunteers started with a cellphone ping but turned up nothing. That told them the man’s phone was either turned off or he was out of range, but could not give them any clues about his location.
A team of three rescue snowmobilers headed up Crooked Creek Pass Road toward Crooked Creek Pass just before 11 p.m., but did not find any fresh snowmobile tracks to indicate the man had been in the area.
The team traveled back down to Power Line Road, and that’s where they found fresh tracks. They followed those tracks until, at 2:57 a.m., Monday, terrain conditions and fatigue forced them to suspend the search until daylight.
At 9:30 a.m. Monday, Vail Mountain Rescue Group sent two snowmobile searchers back into the field with support from Lifeguard 2 with Flight for Life. About an hour later the helicopter crew spotted the subject from the air and directed rescuers to his location; they made contact 20 minutes later.
The Avon man was assessed at the scene. After he was determined to be uninjured and in good spirits, his rescuers gave him a snowmobile ride back to his vehicle.
Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Flight for Life Colorado, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group and Vail Public Safety Communications Center assisted in this search.
The spread of COVID-19 has Eagle County’s emergency response system stretched to capacity, and a backcountry rescue may take longer to accomplish or perhaps may not be possible, based on extremely limited resources.
Vail Mountain Rescue Group provides backcountry search and rescue, as well as public education on backcountry safety. It’s an all-volunteer team and is responsible for all search and rescue operations in unincorporated Eagle County, working with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.