Steamboat Springs Jackson County Search and Rescue on Tuesday morning identified the snowmobiler killed by an avalanche on Buffalo Pass during the weekend as 24-year-old Tyler Lundstedt, of Fort Collins. His younger brother, Jordan Lundstedt, 21, survived the avalanche and was rescued after an extensive search that had helicopters and search and rescue teams from Jackson, Routt and Grand counties scour dangerous and avalanche-prone terrain for two days to find the men.
The survivor, Jordan Lundstedt, was partially buried in an avalanche Saturday night or Sunday morning and was unable to reach his brother Tyler Lundstedt in time.
Scott Toepfer, of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, confirmed in a Web post Tuesday morning that the victim was wearing an avalanche beacon when he was buried by the snow slide.
"The accident near Buffalo Pass occurred on a north aspect below treeline as two people on foot worked their way toward a lower elevation," Toepfer wrote. "The buried individual was found with a beacon search, but the survivor was unable to make a successful rescue."
Mark White, a spokesman for Jackson County Search and Rescue, said it took Jordan “quite a bit of time” to free himself from the avalanche because of the difficult conditions. The survivor then had to find and reportedly dig through 5 feet of snow to reach his brother, who was unresponsive when he was found.
Tyler’s body was recovered by search teams at about 9 p.m. Monday, a few hours after Garry Lundstedt, the father of the missing men, found Jordan Lundstedt alive in a snow cave with the help of a rescue helicopter. Jordan Lundstedt was flown by helicopter to Western States Burn Center at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley on Monday night to be assessed for possible frostbite, according to a hospital spokesman. The survivor was listed in good condition at the hospital at noon Tuesday.
Tyler and Jordan Lundstedt were missing since Saturday night, and Jordan Lundstedt told his rescuers that he and his brother were caught in an avalanche late Saturday night or early Sunday morning while on foot. The men had gotten stuck snowmobiling prior to the avalanche, and rescuers think they were trying to walk back to the Grizzly Creek campsite.
An extensive search
Friends and family of the two men called and emailed the Steamboat Pilot & Today to inquire about the progress of the search Monday.
“I know there are a lot of people praying for them,” a family friend said midday Monday. She said friends and family of the brothers traveled to the search area to help rescuers.
Another friend who attended high school with one of the missing brothers said snowmobiling was a longtime passion of theirs and called it “their thing to do.”
The two brothers went missing Saturday and were thought to have been caught in an avalanche while on foot that night. A 14-member Routt County Search and Rescue team operating with a snowcat, snowshoes and skis worked with helicopters and other search and rescue teams from Jackson County to find the men. The search began at noon Sunday, but rescuers were forced to suspend the operation Sunday night as darkness fell over the search area. Rescuers were able to contact Jordan Lundstedt via cellphone several times Sunday afternoon, but he reported at 3 p.m. that the cellphone was running out of battery. Rescuers said the man reported he was “cold and wet” but was keeping warm in a snow cave.
Teams were able to trace the cellphone using a GPS, and although Jordan Lundstedt confirmed he could see the Jackson County rescue helicopter at about 3 p.m. Sunday, the helicopter was unable to spot him. The helicopter was grounded shortly after that because of high winds and low fuel.
Routt County Search and Rescue team member Darrel Levingston said conditions in the primary search area were dangerous and avalanche prone Sunday. That continued to be the case Monday. Jim Dustin, editor of the Jackson County Star in Walden, reported that there was more than 4 feet of snow in parts of the search area and that rescue helicopters saw evidence of several avalanches during the rescue operation Monday.
Levingston said those conditions made it harder for rescue crews to locate the men.
“We and the Jackson County search crews saturated the primary search area, and it was extremely dangerous terrain,” Levingston said Sunday night as the last of the rescue crews were exiting the search area.
He said searchers who returned from the first day of the rescue operation reported wind gusts of up to 30 mph and a temperature of about 15 degrees. Buffalo Pass received significant snowfall Saturday and Sunday from a weekend storm.
The brothers were members of a larger party of snowmobilers from Fort Collins, two of which had called for help Saturday night at about 6 p.m. after they found themselves stuck near the Grizzly Creek campsite. Rescuers said they made contact with everyone in the party except for the two brothers but were told by the others in the party that the men reported they were safe and would be picked up that night. A search for the brothers was not launched until about noon Sunday, when Jordan Lundstedt called 911 to report they were caught in an avalanche Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Levingston said rescuers located a snowmobile Sunday that is thought to belong to one of the brothers and suspected the men were attempting to walk back to the Grizzly Creek campsite on foot when they triggered the avalanche.
He added that snowmobile riders and backcountry users should use extra caution because of the avalanche danger in the area.
“They need to be wearing beacons and carry avalanche probes and shovels,” he said. “We want people to enjoy the backcountry. We don’t want to discourage people from using it, but we want them to be as safe as possible.”
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com