Update: Missing Vail snowboarder dies in avy
and SARAH MAUSOLF
VAIL – Authorities recovered the body of missing snowboarder Jasper ‘Jaz’ McGrath Thursday afternoon in an out-of-bounds area near Blue Sky Basin.
McGrath, 19, died of suffocation from an avalanche, Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said.
Jasper McGrath’s brother, Joe McGrath, reported him missing last Sunday when he realized he hadn’t seen or heard from him since the previous Wednesday. Jasper McGrath had been sleeping on Joe McGrath’s couch for about two months and was last seen leaving the West Vail home on his way to go snowboarding that day.
Bettis said she presumes McGrath died Jan. 6 because that’s when he was last seen. Officials estimate McGrath was buried under 3 1/2 feet of snow, Bettis said.
McGrath likely triggered the avalanche himself, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s website says.
Two skiers notified Vail Ski Patrol on Thursday that they had spotted a body near Miller Cliffs, an out-of-bounds area about a half-mile west of Belle’s Camp and outside of the Vail Mountain ski area boundary.
Due to the volatility of the terrain, Vail Ski Patrol “provided resources to remove the victim to a safe location,” a news release from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.
Vail Mountain closed two lifts in the Blue Sky Basin area during the recovery, the release said.
Joe McGrath said his brother died doing what he loved most.
“He basically lived for riding,” he said. “He didn’t care if he had money in his pocket or food in his stomach as long as he could snowboard.”
Joe McGrath said his brother had a smile on his face when he left the house Jan. 6 to go snowboarding.
“I had to work that day, or else I would have gone out riding with him,” the 21-year-old said.
Joe McGrath said he was out riding Thursday when he discovered the worst had happened to his brother. “I just stopped at ski patrol at the top of the gondola and they just told me,” he said. “It wasn’t even real until I saw him.”
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Ski Patrol and Vail Mountain Rescue had done a search for Jasper McGrath on Monday in some West Vail trees where he was known to snowboard, just beyond Vail Mountain’s ski boundaries, and found no sign of the 19-year-old from Grand Marais, Minn.
Janet Peterson, the McGrath’s aunt, flew in from Minnesota with Joe and Jasper McGrath’s mother Tuesday night to help look for him. They spent most of the day Wednesday posting flyers throughout town and searching for leads.
“We’d like to be sure to thank everybody here in Vail,” Peterson said. “They were so wonderful and accommodating.”
Although the search did not end the way family members had hoped, “We take comfort in the fact that even though he passed, he was doing something he absolutely loved doing,” Peterson added.
Jasper McGrath was known to hike up the front side of Vail Mountain to go snowboarding – he didn’t have a season pass, but Joe McGrath said he’d typically stay on the front side of the mountain and would come home via the West Vail trees.
“He hikes the mountain – a true ski bum,” Joe McGrath said Tuesday. “He had told me he was going to wait for more snow before he tried to ride the West Vail trees.”
Jasper McGrath lived in Vail last winter and worked for the children’s ski school in Lionshead doing ski rentals. He hadn’t yet found a job since arriving from Minnesota about two months ago.
Joe McGrath said his family plans a memorial service at home in Minnesota.
Sarah Mausolf can be reached
at (970) 748-2928 or
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