Forest Service mourns the loss of veteran ranger Brett Beasley
SUMMIT COUNTY — Brett Beasley was nearing 20 years as a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service before tragically passing away Thursday afternoon.
A rescue team began searching for Beasley and an unnamed youth early Thursday morning. The two skiers had been with a group of around 10 people on a hut trip near Leadville before deciding to go out skiing on their own. They had not been heard from since 10:30 Wednesday morning.
A life of service
Rescuers attempted to treat Beasley for hypothermia after he and the youth were found on Thursday afternoon near Turquoise Lake.
Beasley was a 47-year-old husband and father of two daughters. He lived in Salida with his family.
Jim Pitts, Salida’s district ranger with the Forest Service, said that Beasley was one of the strongest workers he had ever known and was very passionate about his job. Beasley’s anniversary working in the San Isabel National Forest would have been on Thursday. “He was one who would roll up his shirt sleeves and be right there doing things with you,” Pitts said.
He added that Beasley brought people together, whether it was through his job, or simply by cruising down trails on his mountain bike and stopping to talk to random hikers. Pitts said that if you could keep up with Beasley on a mountain bike, then you could see a man riding with incredible skill.
“He could ride a bike like he was floating on a cloud,” Pitts said.
Fighting the snow
The search for the young skier and Beasley started at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning a day after the two had split from their group, which had been staying at Uncle Bud’s Hut near Leadville.
Beasley and the youth were found around 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the Porcupine Gulch area, north of Turquoise Lake. The youth was sent back to his family via snowmobile, while rescuers attempted to treat Beasley for hypothermia. The youth is still in good condition, according to Betty Benson, a spokesperson for Lake County. Rescuers tried to get a helicopter in for Beasley, but were unable to because of the severe weather conditions.
Benson also said that a cause of death for Beasley has not been determined and an autopsy will be performed.
Porcupine Gulch is nearly 3 miles away from Uncle Bud’s Hut. Benson said that the pair likely got lost due to the snow.
“The weather was a challenge and I think that they got a little disoriented,” Benson said.
The devastating loss of Beasley hit the community hard. Pitts said that the family was involved in community service in Salida. He added that Beasley was dedicated to being a loving father and husband.
“Brett was full of life, he had a ton of energy,” Pitts said.
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More base areas open means more space for guests to disperse upon, even if those base area openings don’t translate into more actual terrain openings.