Snowboarder with extreme hypothermia rescued outside Steamboat Ski Area
January 23, 2014
Steamboat Springs — A snowboarder who spent Wednesday night in Steamboat Ski Area sidecountry was found Thursday morning with what rescuers described as extreme hypothermia.
Routt County Search and Rescue volunteer Kristia Check-Hill said the 29-year-old Steamboat man was out for a day of snowboarding at the ski area when the man and his brother decided to go ride out the No. 1 sidecountry access gate at about 3 p.m. The gate is located near the top of the Tomahawk trail and feeds into an area known as Holy Bowl.
"At some point, they got separated," Check-Hill said.
The Routt County Sheriff's Office identified the rescued man as Keegan Gavin.
After being separated, Gavin's brother made it back to the ski area and notified ski patrol. Texts and phone calls were made to Gavin's cellphone, but he did not answer. Businesses were checked at the base area because it was thought he might be there.
"He unfortunately wasn't anywhere there," Check-Hill said.
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Search and Rescue was called at 5:45 p.m.
Check-Hill said Gavin's cellphone was tracked, and the third tracking attempt showed his phone was at his home. When the phone was found plugged in, it became clear Gavin did not have his phone with him.
Check-Hill said rescuers had to consider whether to search for Gavin at night, which would have been difficult and they would have risked missing something they would have otherwise seen in the daylight. For those reasons and others, they chose not to go search Wednesday night.
"You're never comfortable having someone out there, but sometimes that is the best for everyone," Check-Hill said.
At 6 a.m., a 12-person search party, composed of a couple of volunteers, Search and Rescue members and Steamboat Ski Patrol members who were very familiar with the terrain, assembled.
"They're the experts," Check-Hill said.
They loaded the gondola and went out the same gate the brothers went out.
"They eventually found what they believed were his trails and followed them and followed them and followed them," Check-Hill said.
They found Gavin shortly before 11 a.m. in the Storm King Creek drainage. Check-Hill described him as being extremely hypothermic.
"He continued to move all night long, which was a good thing," Hill said.
Temperatures in the morning were in the single digits.
Gavin was loaded onto a trailer and taken out by snowmobile. Check-Hill said he was then put into an ambulance waiting at Alpine Mountain Ranch and taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center at about 12:30 p.m.
Check-Hill said Gavin did not appear to be injured, and his condition was not life threatening.
She reminded those venturing into the outdoors to always carry a cellphone.