I have to give kudos to everyone involved, San Miguel County Sheriff act swiftly, professionally and get things done promptly.
We've worked with Commander Eric Berg on several occasions over the past few years. He and PJ think very similarly and work very well together.
Below is a news article from Telluride Daily Planet:
Telluride Daily Planet
Skier tumbles 1,000 feet down San Joaquin Couloir
By Collin McRann
Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 10:41 AM CDT
A local skier who fell roughly 1,000 feet down the steep and narrow San Joaquin Couloir in Upper Bear Creek on Thursday suffered a head injury and was airlifted out of the basin by rescue crews.
According to San Miguel County Sheriff’s reports, the skier, Kris Pepe, took the fall on Thursday as he was skiing the well-known chute. He was unconscious when he came to a stop at the bottom, according to reports, and his ski partner called 911 at around 12:38 p.m. Officials notified ski patrol and initiated a rescue. By the time a Helitrax helicopter carrying search and rescue crews arrived at the scene at around 1:25 p.m., ski patrol was on the scene and Pepe was in and out of consciousness.
He was loaded onto the helicopter, which eventually transported him to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. As of Friday he had been released from the hospital.
“It was a pretty fast backcountry rescue I think,” said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters. “Considering the difficulty of his location and finding a landing zone. These things can turn really bad.”
The San Joaquin Couloir is a long, skinny chute on the west face of San Joaquin Ridge that is fairly popular with backcountry skiers.
Masters said on Friday that it was fortunate that search and rescue had access to the Helitrax helicopter, which as of Friday was no longer available for search and rescue use this season.
“If we had to haul him out with a sled or something it would have taken significantly longer,” Masters said.
The man was with a group of friends who were all carrying avalanche gear, but the man had no rescue card, hunting or fishing license in his name, according to the sheriff’s office.
During a 911 call the man who reported the accident was concerned about the time it was taking for the helicopter to arrive. At the time of the call, ski patrol was planning a descent down to the bottom of the couloir and the helicopter was on its way. However, Masters said helicopters are not always available for rescues, especially late in the season.
According to the sheriff’s office, the Telluride Helitrax helicopter was expertly piloted by PJ Hunt. Though ski patrol was not obligated to help with the rescue, a few members volunteered to the help the man and assist with his evacuation.
Masters said the snow can be very hard and unforgiving, especially in the morning, and the couloir is steep and narrow. But he said it is unusual for someone to take such a long fall when there isn’t an avalanche involved.
“You get in there and mess it up, and you’re going to take that long ride, and he’s lucky he survived,” Masters said. “You need to be ready to accept your fate if you decide to go in there. If something happens, it’s just going to be by the grace of other people that you get rescued.”
A number of ski accidents have occurred in Bear Creek this winter. The most recent one was March 28 when a skier broke his leg in variable snow conditions. He was airlifted out. In late January a man caught in an avalanche slid 1,700 feet down Temptation Chute before coming to a stop on a shelf near the bottom of Bear Creek — he was uninjured., and exited Bear Creek on his own.
Masters would like to caution people about skiing in the dangerous areas outside of the ski area’s boundaries. He said people are relying on ski patrol, but as patrol has no obligation to come help, people need to exercise caution because rescues can be expensive and time consuming — especially without a helicopter.
“If you go back there you’ve got to be prepared to help yourself,” Masters said.
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