Missing snowmobilers alive; 2 skiers missing
CONEJOS, Colorado Six snowmobilers were brought to safety on Monday after they called 911 from a remote cabin in the snowy southern Colorado mountains where they had been stranded for three nights.They were cold and hungry but otherwise appeared unhurt.”We just stayed in the cabin because it was safe,” Jason Groen said when crews on snowmobiles brought him and the others out at about 11 a.m.Groen said the group, all from New Mexico, got lost and ran out of gas on Friday night near 10,222-foot Cumbres Pass just north of the Colorado-New Mexico border. The area is about 200 miles south of Denver and 60 miles northwest of Taos, N.M.They took refuge in the cabin, near the isolated and snowbound Osier Station, a small wooden building that serves as summertime stop on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a tourist line.Groen said his cell phone didn’t work in the cabin, and bad weather kept him from leaving the cabin to find a place where he could get a signal until Monday morning.Railroad spokeswoman Kathy Romero said the station is so remote that it takes 90 minutes in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there in good weather.The search had been hindered by heavy snow and bad roads. As much as 4 feet of snow fell in the area since Friday, the National Weather Service said.Deputy Adam Chacon said the snow fell as fast as 8 inches per hour at times, making it tough for snowmobile-mounted searchers.”We were barely missing creeks, we were running into snow drifts,” he said. Chacon said searchers risked sinking into deep snow if they slowed their machines.Groen, 36, was snowmobiling with his wife, Shannon, 31; their daughter Aspen, 14; one of Groen’s employees, Mike Martin; and Martin’s wife Missy and their son, Jessie, 13.Jason Groen’s mother said she had feared the worst.”I never had a prayer that they would all get off the mountain alive,” said Beverly Downey of Aztec, N.M.About 40 miles northwest of Cumbres Pass, searchers in a helicopter and on snowmobiles took advantage of a break in the weather to resume looking for two skiers near Wolf Creek Pass.The search has been hampered by snow and the threat of backcountry avalanches, Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus said.”We’ve had several, several avalanches all over the place,” Hosselkus said Monday.Authorities said the two men were in their mid-20s and their car had New Mexico license plates, but their names had not been released.The southern Colorado mountains were under an avalanche warning on Monday.”All of the passes are closed,” said Scott Toepfer, a forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.Toepfer said avalanches had piled up to 10 feet of snow on U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass.Associated Press Writers George Merritt in Denver and Heather Clark in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.
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