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Skier Rescued after 2-Day Search

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Updated: Sat, 01 Mar 2014 11:17:41 MST

LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. - A man who skied out of bounds at Durango Mountain Resort at Purgatory (DMR) north of Durango on Friday, was found Saturday in a remote part of Hermosa Creek drainage. He was cold and exhausted, rescued by La Plata County Search and Rescue.

42 year old Alex Magennis, a former Durango resident, texted his wife Friday afternoon to say he skied into an out of bounds area near Lift 8 and planned to continue skiing east to an area known as Needles.  About 10 years ago, Magennis skied out of bounds in the same general area and made it to Needles with another person. Magennis’ wife, Jen, notified DMR Ski Patrol who launched a search. They found Magennis’ tracks leaving the ski area at Butler Creek. La Plata County Search and Rescue (LPCSAR) was sent to the area at about 5:30 p.m. Friday. By evening, at least 20 people were searching.

Rather than heading east toward Needles, Magennis was tracked to the south and to the west into Elbert Creek and Big Lick Creek. Searchers followed his tracks throughout the night as heavy snow fell. They found two places where Magennis stopped to rest.  At one location, it appeared he attempted to make a snow shelter. He then continued on, leaving behind an avalanche probe pole, shovel, and survival blanket.  By 6:00 a.m. Saturday, trackers found Magennis’ prints heading south in Hermosa Creek drainage, ten miles from Lift 8 where he left the ski area.

The exhausted tracking teams were pulled out by snowmobiles from DMR, San Juan Sledders, and LPCSAR. As they were being evacuated, fresh search teams began to move north from the lower trailhead of Hermosa Creek as snow continued to fall and fog limited visibility at times.

At about 11:30 a.m. one of the teams made contact with Magennis seven miles north of the Hermosa Creek Campground. They gave Magennis food, drink, warm clothing and began escorting him down the trail to meet a horse team from La Plata County Mounted Patrol. They hoped to reach Hermosa Creek Campground by late afternoon Saturday. A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect in the area until Sunday.        

Butch Knowlton, Director of the Office of Emergency Management which oversaw the rescue efforts, said more than two dozen people from six organizations and more than 350 man hours were spent rescuing Magennis. Knowlton said there is a reason areas are posted as Out-Of-Bounds.  When persons enter out of bounds areas, it can place many people in  harm’s way. It can cost the lives not only of those who enter but those tasked to rescue them. 

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