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Out-of-bounds skier rescued from above cliff near Telluride

Man went out of bounds into Bear Creek area

A man who skied out of bounds in Telluride Sunday afternoon was rescued in the Bear Creek area, according to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.

He was with a ski instructor and guided group when he became separated and was stranded above a cliff and unable to climb out, the Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook.

“People need to know that ski boundaries and ropes exist for a reason,” said Sheriff Bill Masters. “We could have had a lot of people killed today, but by the grace of God and the skill of our rescuers, everyone is safely returning to their homes.”

At 4:21 p.m., sheriff’s deputies, San Miguel Search and Rescue and Telluride Ski Patrol responded to the Bear Creek area above a backcountry run called Contention and below The Needle spire.

People were advised to stay out of the area.

By 7:45 p.m., six rescuers had reached the stranded skier, began escorting him out and were approaching Town Park at the bottom of the steep Bear Creek drainage.

“These rescuers are literally risking their lives for this completely irresponsible individual in treacherous terrain with avalanche danger in the dark,” Masters said in a Facebook post.

By 8:25 p.m., the skier and all rescuers were safely out of the Bear Creek area. The expert backcountry area in the Uncompahgre National Forest is prone to avalanches. It is often accessed from the Telluride ski area.

The sheriff reported that the skier claims to have been led to the area by a ski instructor. The incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, avalanche danger Sunday and Monday in the North San Juan Mountains, which includes Bear Creek, was “considerable” near and above tree line.

A weekend snowstorm created an “elevated danger and easily triggered avalanches where you find more than 10 inches of new snow,” according to the information center’s report Sunday.

On Monday, dangerous avalanche conditions persisted in the northern and southern San Juan Mountains, with more than 2 feet of new snow, as well as deeper drifts, on the ground. Natural avalanches are possible.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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