Vail, Routt rescue crews have big weekend with multiple back country missions
January 15, 2018
EAGLE — If you're snowboarding the Minturn Mile, then do not partner with bro-hahs who will abandon you so they can get to the bar more quickly.
Vail Mountain Rescue Group was called out to three missions in two days — two snowmobiles and one snowboarder — to reach a total of seven missions in this young year. Vail Mountain Rescue Group did 123 missions last year, a record 127 the year before that, and 120 in 2015.
The snowboarder call was sandwiched between two calls for snowmobile rescues, said Dan Smith, with Vail Mountain Rescue Group.
"It's unclear whether the snowboarder broke a binding on the Minturn Mile before or after his three buddies left him up there because he was 'too slow,'" Smith said.
It is crystal clear that a young woman who was also skiing the Minturn Mile spotted him and his buddies up there. When they came out she asked them where the fourth member of their party was and was told they had left him behind.
Livid, the young woman stalked back up there to get him and called 911 on her way. She met a Vail Mountain Rescue crew that was headed up, as she and the broken-binding snowboarder were on their way down.
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"Be very careful who you ski and ride with. There are good people in the world who will help you. You'll do well to ride with them," Smith said.
The snowmobilers were both on Red and White Mountain, where a maze of trails and dwindling fuel left them lost and stranded. One was found in an abandoned cabin after he called 911. He had turned off his cellphone to save his battery, and rescue crews could not locate him until he turned it back on.
Vail Mountain Rescue has never charged for a mission, and never will, Smith said.
"We will come get you and never send you a bill. People sometimes don't call because they think we'll charge them. We won't. Not now, not ever," Smith said.
The local Colorado Army Air National Guard won't send you a bill, either, if they have to help with the rescue, Smith said.
Routt County Rescue, too
Routt County Search and Rescue crews also had their hands full Sunday morning, Jan. 14, locating a snowmobiler who spent the night in the backcountry after getting stuck.
The 51-year-old man is from the New Hampshire area but now lives in Steamboat Springs.
"That's why he wasn't real familiar with the area and the terrain," Search and Rescue Incident Commander Kristia Check-Hill told the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
The man had started from Dumont Lake on Rabbit Ears Pass.
At about 2 p.m., the man called his nephew and said his sled was stuck on Buffalo Mountain under the power lines.
"And that's the last anybody heard from him," Check-Hill said.
Because the man did not call 911, rescuers were not able to "ping" the cellphone to get his location.
Crews started their search Saturday night and picked it up again Sunday morning.
Check-Hill said the deputy from Grand County informed more than 100 snowmobilers about the missing man. Shortly after 11 a.m., two snowmobilers found the man and called 911.
"He was OK besides being cold," Check-Hill said. "He was not planning on being out all night so pretty much the bare minimum. The learning point is don't go by yourself. Make sure your cellphone is charged, and call 911 first so we can get a ping."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.