Missing Leadville backcountry skier dies while being treated for hypothermia
January 5, 2017
Two backcountry skiers reported missing in the Turquoise Lake area near Leadville were found Thursday afternoon. One of them, a youth, was taken back to the trailhead via snowmobile, but the adult, Brett Beasely, passed away while being treated for hypothermia, according to the Lake County Office of Emergency Management.
At least 26 personnel from Lake County Search & Rescue, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Wildlife and the Colorado 10th Mountain Division deployed on Thursday morning after the skiers had not been heard from since around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Lake County announced late Thursday afternoon that the skiers were successfully located at around 2:30 p.m. in the Porcupine Gulch area. In a Facebook post, the Lake County officials said that the youth "seems fine" and was headed back to the parking lot to meet up with his family. The adult was being treated for hypothermia in the backcountry and awaiting a helicopter flight to the hospital but did not survive.
The two had been staying at Uncle Bud's, a cabin owned by the Colorado 10th Mountain Division near Leadville.
Rescuers deployed on snowmobiles early Thursday morning amid continued snowfall, which was heavy throughout the previous day as well. Ski Cooper, a ski area roughly six miles northeast of the area near Uncle Bud's, reported ten inches of new snow in the past 24 hours.
The heavy accumulations increased avalanche danger across the High Country, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issued a special avalanche advisory for an area including Uncle Bud's on Thursday morning at 6 a.m., warning that slides would be large in areas that received new snow.
The Lake County spokeswoman said that the two skiers were not caught in an avalanche but had been hunkering down through the storm. Still, the elevated avalanche risk likely made the search more time-consuming, as did the continual snowfall.
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"It definitely increases the difficulty," said Charles Pitman, a mission coordinator for the Summit County Rescue Group, which was not involved in the Turquoise Lake rescue. "Snow this deep can be very problematic for snowmobiles, and depending on where it is it could take a whole lot longer. You also have serious, serious concern about avalanches, and you will have to stay away from critical avalanche areas. That can put extra stress on rescuers."
Pitman said that 2016 was particularly busy for search and rescue groups across the state. Summit County Rescue Group, he said, got between 150 and 160 calls from dispatch last year and put teams in the field in about 60 of those.
"Calls were a good 35 percent above the previous year, and that's what we've seen over the past several years: it leveled off and then spiked up," Pitman said.