Colorado search and rescue kicked off the New Year with a difficult rescue mission to save a snowboarder that got stranded above a cliff on Berthoud Pass.

According to Grand County Search and Rescue, a snowboarder became stuck on a snowy cliffside along Berthoud Pass on Friday, requiring teams to use ropes to lower a rescuer 180 feet down to the person in need of assistance. Once the stuck snowboarder was reached, the rescuer was able to provide a harness and hook the man onto a rope for protection. The two then made the difficult climb back up the slope to safety.

"The snow was sugary and unstable making for a very difficult climb up," stated Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR).

Avalanche terrain made it extremely difficult for crews to get to the snowboarder that had become stranded in deep snow on the the pass, according to officials. Forty-degree slopes also hovered above the cliffside, where the rope evacuation took place. 

"We've had a number of riders swept over these cliffs over the years. stated GCSAR. "Survival rate is less than 50%."

Officials also responded to avalanche activity on Friday on Berthoud Pass. In a second incident that day, a backcountry traveler called for help after discovering a vehicle in the parking lot with a note left behind by a solo skier. The reporting party encountered signs of a fresh slide on the 11,307-foot mountain pass, fearing a possible burial. 

Dog teams were able to confirm that no individuals were buried among the mountain debris. According to officials, the solo skier returned to his vehicle safely later that day.

Berthoud Pass is a popular backcountry ski area located directly off of U.S. Highway 40, just east of the Continental Divide. The 11,307-foot mountain pass connects between the mountain towns of Empire and Winter Park.

All of the rescue efforts on Berthoud Pass over the long weekend ended in success, with no injuries reported. Thanks goes out to all the agencies who were involved, including Grand County Search and Rescue, Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment with Flight For Life Colorado, East Grand Fire Protection District #4, Grand County Emergency Medical Services, and Winter Park Ski Patrol.

Editor’s Note: Help fund search and rescue missions across the state of Colorado by purchasing a CORSAR card at This is not an insurance card. By purchasing a card, you are helping reimburse teams for costs incurred in providing help to lost and injured hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, hunters, ATV riders, skiers, snowboarders, and more.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.


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