Search and Rescue locates skiers

Lost party called rescuers from cell phone

— Routt County Search and Rescue was back to work, finding three lost skiers on Rabbit Ears Pass. Though the volunteer group has been working hard this winter, members say the call load has been normal.

Friday's search mission was called in by the lost party via cell phone at about 7 p.m. from the A loop cross country ski trail on Rabbit Ears Pass, incident commander Tim O'Brien said.

The party was a local man, his adult son and daughter in-law who are from California, and were cross country skiing in the area, he said.

"They seemed to have gotten disoriented, and then they split up," O'Brien said.

He said the skiers situation became urgent when the sun went down and they didn't know where they were. The group was dressed appropriately but was without matches and had little water.

About 15 Routt County Search and Rescues volunteers helped find the party about 10:30 p.m., wrapping up a night of work, he said.

All three skiers were in good condition.

The call was marked as the first of the year in Routt County Search and Rescue's logbook, although O'Brien said he thought at least one other mission in 2003 was mounted before Friday.

Though the group may seem busy, considering the recent plane crash mission and at least one other search that got statewide media attention, members say it's been a normal winter.

In 2002, Routt County Search and Rescue went on 65 missions.

"It's a pretty typical year," Search and Rescue volunteer Sandy Witte said. "We get busier and busier when the weather changes. When we have blue skies for 10 days in a row, we don't get a lot of calls."

She said media attention has been greater this year, which may make it seem like calls are up. But for the most part, the workload has been typical.

O'Brien agreed. He said in actuality, Routt County Search and Rescue is busier in the fall during hunting season than in the winter.

However, winter missions can be more detrimental because of the life threatening conditions. During other times of the year, it's not as urgent to get lost people out of the forest as quickly as possible because their chances of surviving the night are greater, O'Brien said.

"Sometimes you almost want to give them that experience," O'Brien said of leaving lost parties out for the night.

But in the winter, he said he likes to work hard to make sure lost parties are not risking their lives spending the night.

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