On February 20, 2018 at approximately 7:14 P.M., the Albany County Sheriff’s Office received a report of three Colorado residents that were overdue while snowmobiling in the Snowy Range Mountains. The caller had limited information regarding possible locations of the three men.
Search teams consisting of Albany County Deputies and Albany County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteer’s, prepared to begin searching at sunrise on February 21st .
At approximately 1:00 a.m., our office was notified that one of the lost subjects had contacted a family member by cell phone. He was instructed by Deputies on how to access his GPS on his cell phone. His GPS coordinates put his location near the Quealy warming hut on “N” trail. The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office also received a broken 911 call from this subject as well. This subject reported that he was attempting to walk to the warming hut, however due to the depth of snow and extremely cold temperatures, he felt he wouldn’t survive.
At 2:30 a.m., our office deployed a Tucker snow cat to the area to locate the missing subject. At approximately 3:30 a.m., deputies located the subject in good health, but he was extremely cold. He reported that his party had experienced mechanical issues with one of the snowmobiles and another had become stuck in deep snow. He stayed with the two disabled snowmobiles while the other two rode double on a snowmobile back to the Green Rock parking area, to retrieve another snowmobile around 5:00 p.m. on Feb 20th. The subject that stayed with the disabled snowmobiles made a fire with what little dry wood he could find, until the fire went out. The other subjects had not returned by midnight, so he attempted to walk towards a warming hut located approximately one and one half miles away.
At approximately 11:00 a.m., on February 21st , our search teams located the other two missing subjects on “O” trail near Twin Lakes. They were escorted back to the parking area. It was determined that they had become disoriented and had taken a wrong turn while heading back to the truck. They had dug a snow cave and made a fire to survive the night.
The Albany County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind the public of the dangers of snowmobiling in the Snowy Range and the importance of having a plan, sticking to the plan and being prepared for the worst. We would recommend that all riders carry a backpack containing a GPS, trail maps, several ways to start a fire, water, food and extra dry clothing.
Typically during searches it’s easier for the search teams to locate stationary objects such as snowmobiles. If you become stuck it’s the best practice to remain with the machine, make a shelter, fire and stay put. It’s extremely risky to attempt to walk far distances in deep snow.