A skier and snowboarder were rescued unharmed from the West Willow Creek basin outside the Snowmass Ski Area on Monday night.
The snowboarder, 20-year-old Denis Buzulan of Asheville N.C., called authorities around 5 p.m., according to a press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. He told dispatchers that he and a friend, 22-year-old Daniil Shuman of Utica, N.Y., were lost outside of the ski area boundary. According to the release, the two took the Cirque Poma lift, hiked to the Hanging Valley Wall and then skied off the backside of the ski area.
The men, who were separated from each other, were able to relay their latitude and longitude in the basin, which is due south of the ski area.
Eleven members of Mountain Rescue Aspen were deployed, arriving at the ski area around 6:36 p.m. According to the press release, the MRA rescuers split into three teams and took snowmobiles to the Elk Camp area to access the basin.
Assisted by Snowmass ski patrol, one team was able to locate Shuman, who had traveled across the slope to the edge of the ski area boundary. He was rescued and taken to safety.
The other teams found Buzulan around 8:19 p.m. a mile from the ski area boundary. According to the release, rescuers determined that the least treacherous route to rescue the skier would be to return to the ski area near Elk Camp. The team led Buzulan back to the ski area in the dark, guided by headlamps, with temperatures near 10 degrees.
The lost parties and MRA members were out of the field by 10 p.m. Also assisting in the rescue was sheriff’s office deputies, Snowmass Village police officers, seven members of the Snowmass ski patrol and other Aspen Skiing Co. employees.
MRA and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind skiers and snowboarders that venturing beyond ski area boundaries in unfamiliar terrain can lead to injury or death. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, avalanche conditions near and below treeline were “moderate” during the time of Monday’s rescue. That rating means that there are heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features, and users should evaluate snow and terrain carefully before venturing out of bounds.