Routt County Search and Rescue member Jay Bowman sustained a broken arm, some small leg fractures and a laceration to the head after being swept away by an avalanche during a night rescue mission for an ill-equipped backcountry skier and snowboarder on Buffalo Pass near Steamboat Springs according to Steamboat Today.
Routt County Search and Rescue was called out to help a skier and snowboarder who had gotten lost and needed help getting out of the North Fork of the Fish Creek drainage around 3:45 p.m. Thursday. Four Search and Rescue volunteers set out in the dark and were able meet up with the lost men’s tracks.
The team determined the avalanche danger was after digging a test pit and reaching the men meant crossing a known slide path that the lost men had already traversed. Incident Commander Chad Bowdre commented on the inherent danger of rescue operations like this:
“We know that we do take some calculated risks every time we go out on a mission — much less when the avalanche danger is high. It’s a hard thing to do.”
The rescuers took their time to cross the steep slope with the first two traversing successfully but the slope slid after the third rescuer, Bowman, attempted to cross. He triggered an avalanche 100 feet across, that ran 600 feet with a 1 to 2 foot crown. He was swept 300 feet downslope before hitting an aspen tree. His team got to him quickly and thankfully Bowman was never submerged.
Despite the pain of broken limbs and lacerations, Bowman continued with the group to save the men, who were in their mid-40s and from Minnesota. The pair of men did not have any food, water, light, navigation equipment or avalanche beacons.
We sincerely wish a quick recovery for Jay Bowman and want to thank all the members of the Routt County Search and Rescue (which is 100% volunteer). Let’s hope this serves as a reminder to anyone thinking of venturing out into the backcountry without proper preparations: If you go into the backcountry uninformed and ill-equipped, you are not only risking your life, you are risking everyone’s life that has to save your ass.