Afternoon rescue mission turns into 8-hour scramble to save an out-of-bounds skier at Steamboat Resort

Kit Geary
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Trees along Steamboat Ski Resort’s Morningside Lift were weighed down with snow on Dec. 31, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT RESORT — A skier who exited Steamboat Resort through a backcountry gate prompted an eight-hour search involving both ski patrol and Routt County Search and Rescue. Search and Rescue began their search at 3:30 p.m. and received word at 11 p.m. that the person self-rescued.

A 23-year-old male skier was lost after skiing down Gate 1 from Tomahawk run that leads to Holy Bowl. Not being familiar with the area, the skier continued down a path that led him even farther away from the resort.

“If you ski Holy Bowl there is an unmarked route that you can take to get back to Baby Powder and lower Tomahawk. If you miss that route back to the area, then typically subjects get funneled down into Storm King drainage which is a very dangerous area to the south of the ski mountain that eventually comes out in Storm Mountain Ranch or Alpine Mountain Ranch,” said Jay Bowman, president of Routt County Search and Rescue. 

Search and Rescue sent out a team of seven after receiving word at 3:30 p.m. that ski patrol was conducting a search on the mountain. The skier’s phone had died, so no one could track their location. Not knowing the specifics of the person’s whereabouts, the team split into two groups, one going down Holy Bowl and the other retracing ski patrols tracks from earlier. The group’s best bet of tracking down the skier was to follow their tracks. 

The snow storm occurring at the height of the search made looking for tracks nearly impossible.

“The four-person team continued on into Storm King drainage, following the tracks, and it got to a point where we were in extreme avalanche terrain. At that point, the team and the incident commander decided to abandon that search,” Bowman said. “We hiked back up out of the drainage, got back up to a stage area right below Tomahawk ski run and waited for further instructions. That’s when we got word that the skier had made his way out at Alpine Mountain Ranch at 11 o’clock last night. He got extremely lucky because he went through some serious terrain and avalanche conditions.” 

The skier emerged from the situation unharmed. Bowman stresses the fact that this individual is extremely lucky and this is not how these situations generally end. Search and Rescue cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a charged phone and a plan before heading into the side or backcountry to ski.

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