Two young skiers visiting from Denmark gained a new appreciation for ski area boundaries Thursday after they ducked a rope at the bottom of Walsh’s run on Aspen Mountain and spent approximately five hours working their way down a rugged backcountry slope.
They were eventually found unharmed and brought to safety by a Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) team.
Frederik Elmsted, 15, and his friend Kristian Thylander, 14, became stranded in the steep drainage below Walsh’s and had to move slowly down the side of the mountain toward the Northstar Nature Preserve as temperatures dropped from the teens into the single digits. They left the ski area around 1 p.m., they said.
In explaining their actions, Thylander said: “We wanted to try and get off piste and it got pretty bad.”
The teenagers missed a scheduled meeting with their parents on Aspen Mountain early in the afternoon, prompting the parents to contact ski patrol. Patrollers were able to follow the tracks of the skiers under the rope and a short ways down the mountain, which led to a call to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the mobilization of Mountain Rescue Aspen.
A team of two MRA members entered the Northstar preserve at the base of the drainage and began searching for the lost skiers on snowmobile. Meanwhile, Thylander maintained contact with his father throughout the ordeal via cell phone, using the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and landmarks on the north side of Highway 82 as reference points to climb down the mountain.
Both Elmsted and Thylander kept their ski equipment with them as they worked their way through the rugged area, only deciding to leave it behind as they neared the very bottom. As darkness began to fall, they were rescued by MRA members who were able to recover their ski gear and safely deliver them to a waiting ambulance. Although they were thirsty and cold, the teenagers did not suffer any injuries and were not transported to the hospital.
When asked about leaving the ski area boundary, Elmsted gave three words of advice — “Don’t do it.”