Skier happy to be home after getting lost in Island Park and spending six hours in the cold

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Skiing in Island Park | File Photo, EastIdahoNews.com

The following is a news release from Fremont County Search and Rescue.

FREMONT COUNTY – Fremont County Search and Rescue pulled a skier out of a ditch in Island Park Sunday after he had been lost for nearly six hours.

At 5:39 p.m., Sunday, January 5, Fremont County Search & Rescue (FCSAR) responded to Two Top Mountain in Island Park to search for a 20-year-old downhill skier from Bozeman, Montana. He was supposed to be picked up by his buddy at the bottom of his run but didn’t show up. The two friends would take turns either skiing or snowboarding down. Each had his own snowmobile, so they would leave one snowmobile on top, and the other would pick him up at the bottom.

The skier was dropped off at 3:30 p.m., and apparently made an incorrect turn and ended up in a creek drainage. His friend was unable to locate him but was able to maintain phone contact, but eventually his phone went dead. He waited until about 5 p.m. before heading back to West Yellowstone on his snowmobile to charge his phone, contact the skier, and get his pickup. He instructed the skier to call 911. He joined FCSAR at Red Rock Road base camp to wait for him. Fremont County Sheriff’s Dispatch was able to get GPS coordinates from the skier’s call, and FCSAR sent a team of eight searchers to locate him.

The search team split into two teams. One team located his snowmobile at 7:46 p.m. The two teams gathered at his snowmobile, and four snowshoers regrouped into a team snowmobiling towards his coordinates and found his tracks at 8:11 p.m.

A third team of four searchers left base camp to assist in the search. At one point a Fremont County Deputy made contact via cell phone, and the skier stated that he could see headlights before he started side stepping up the hill. The officer instructed him to call 911 again to get his current coordinates and asked him to stay put so searchers could locate him quicker. At 9:15 p.m., searchers made voice contact with him. They rode as far as they could toward him on snow machines, and the skier walked the rest of the way to meet them. They made contact with the subject at 9:18 p.m.

With new snow received in the centennials, snow travel was slow and treacherous, no base to the snow. At 10:10 p.m., the search team and lost skier joined the other two groups at his snowmobile. The group waiting at his sled had built a fire to warm everyone before heading back to base camp. On their way back to base camp, the subject’s snowmobile died, and the starter rope broke. Rescuers were able to get it going again, arriving at base camp at 11:10 p.m. without further incident.

Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center says riding conditions in the Centennial Mountains near Mount Jefferson, Rea’s Peak and Hell Roaring Canyon are dangerous. An avalanche warning is in effect due to strong wind and heavy snowfall loading a weak snowpack.

Avoid riding on steep slopes and through avalanche runout zones Tuesday. Avalanche danger is HIGH on wind
loaded slopes and CONSIDERABLE on all other slopes.

Since Sunday morning, the mountains near West Yellowstone and Cooke City got 8-9” of new snow, the Bridger Range got a heavy half inch, and Big Sky got a trace. Temperatures will drop to the single digits Monday night with up to 4 inches of snow and 6 inches near Cooke City.

A reminder to anyone traveling backcountry areas whether skiing, snowmobiling hunting, fishing, camping, boating, ATVing, trail riding, biking, or hiking:

  • Remember the time of year, exercising all backcountry cautions.
  • Take necessary equipment and survival gear when venturing into the backcountry. If you have a GPS
    and cell phone, be sure to take them with you, but do not rely on them entirely for a safe rescue if you find
    yourself in trouble or stranded. Avalanche Transceivers and equipment, knowing what the avalanche
    conditions are, and knowing skills to save lives are a must for everyone entering backcountry riding or
    traveling.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you know the area you are heading into before heading into it.
  • If you find yourself in trouble, stop, take a look around you, and do not go any farther. The farther you go the more complicated and dangerous it is to get yourself to safety, also making rescue efforts more
    difficult and dangerous. Make mental notes in relation to any physical features or landmarks that would
    assist in your rescue.
  • Make a plan, stick to your plan, narrow the riding area, and most of all let someone know WHERE you are
    planning to go and WHEN you are to return.

To check avalanche conditions, here are some sites to look at:

http://www.mtavalanche.com/current

http://www.jhavalanche.org/viewTeton

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