Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County.
A call for help came in to the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office around 11:40 Sunday morning from a
back-country skier whose friend has been injured in a fall. The 35-year- old Boulder resident had been
skiing a snowdrift when he fell and tumbled down the slope. The skiers had headed up the Moffat
Tunnel trail and then back up to Forest Lakes, about five miles from the road.
When the patient’s friend reached the fallen skier, the injured man was unconscious, but came to
eventually, with multiple injuries and broken bones and unable to move. Fortunately, the men had cell
phone service and although they were able to call for help, it would be at least 10 hours before that help
could get them out.
As they waited, the uninjured skier built a wind shelter of snow. It was estimated there were gusts
of wind up to 70 mph with blowing snow, making conditions dangerous. The men were not especially
equipped to spend the night, having basically their ski gear; no food or water.
The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office mobile command center was set up at the bottom of Rollins Pass
as Alpine Rescue out of Evergreen took over the rescue operations. Snow vehicles from Rocky Mountain
Rescue, UTV Outlanders from Alpine Rescue, Timberline Fire Protection District firefighters, Gilpin
County Public Works and the High Country Auxiliary, as well as the Gilpin County Ambulance Authority
showed up at the site and settled in for what they knew would be a long, cold rescue.
Although command had a chopper on standby, the helicopter was unable to fly due to high winds
and bad visibility, so the rescue had to take place on the ground. A crew in a snowcat made it to Yankee
Doodle Lake but was turned back because of treacherous conditions, crumbling cornices and deep drifts.
Finally, around 4:30 p.m., a couple of Rocky Mountain Rescue skiers made it to the injured party. By
the time they treated the patient, secured him to a sled, pulled him out to the road and loaded him into
the ambulance to be transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital, it was about 9:30 p.m.
Gilpin County Public Information Officer Cherokee Blake says, "It was a great team effort. The
agencies worked well together to ensure the safety of the patient.”
Although it is not known how much the rescue will cost the county or the rescue agencies, Blake
says that the non-injured person had a search and rescue card, which helps pay the cost.