“They probably thought it was a shortcut”
Two teenage skiers were found safe on Sunday evening, after leaving the boundaries of Crested Butte Mountain Resort and getting lost in the forest.
The skiers, whose names were not released, were two teenage boys, ages 15 and 16, who were visiting CBMR from out of town, according to CBMR ski patrol director Eric Forsythe, who says, “They were both expert skiers, who had been skiing their whole life.”
CBMR general manager Randy Barrett says on Sunday evening, March 16, around 6:30 p.m., members of CBMR’s security department were notified of the missing skiers by their parents. Barrett says CBMR ski patrollers began searching the mountain and “found tracks leading under the rope,” at which point additional personnel were called on board to help, along with a Crested Butte Search and Rescue team.
Before they got lost, Forsythe says, the skiers began the traverse out to Spellbound Bowl. Upon reaching a low point on the traverse, Forsythe says, the skiers probably realized that they would have to do more hiking to get anywhere.
Barrett says the skiers may have been looking for a shortcut back to the slopes.
But Forsythe says instead of heading to the left and back toward the base area, their tracks went under the rope to the right. Forsythe estimates the skiers left the ski area boundaries close to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
They ended up skiing down through the forest, passing the Wolf’s Lair section at the bottom of Teocalli Bowl by about 100 feet, according to Forsythe.
Forsythe says the skiers proceeded to make their way down the backside of the mountain toward the East River Valley floor. “At some point they abandoned their skis and were holed up under a tree for the night,” he says.
Forsythe says eight ski patrollers and four snowcat drivers assisted in the search, along with two Mt. Crested Butte police officers and a Crested Butte Search and Rescue team.
Crested Butte Search and Rescue team member Nicholas Kempin says, “We were tasked with going up Brush Creek and searching that area. In the past folks have come off the back side of the mountain and ended up on Brush Creek Road, thinking someone will come by. Well, it’s not a road that’s open in the wintertime.” Kempin says.
The cat drivers left CBMR’s shop on the north end of Mt. Crested Butte and patrolled the valley floor toward Brush Creek. Within two hours CBMR cat driver Mo Vaughn spotted and recovered the two skiers close to 9 p.m., Forsythe says.
Barrett says the two most prominent dangers of getting lost out of bounds are triggering avalanches and catching hypothermia. “Those are the two that are going to get you,” he said.
Barrett says because the skiers crossed a rope line and exited the ski area, they violated the Colorado Ski Safety Act and will be cited accordingly.
CBMR mountain manager Jack Gibbons says the skiers will be given an invoice for rescue costs, and the Mt. Crested Butte Fire Protection District, which provided ambulance service, will also invoice the skiers for their service. Gibbons says all together the rescue cost more than $1,000.
Kempin says the search and rescue team does not charge for its service.
About a month ago, Gibbons says, a similar incident occurred where three skiers crossed under a rope and suddenly found themselves lost in the forest. But in this case, one of the skiers carried a cell phone, which aided in the