Dillon, Colorado native Kelsey Malin and her friend spent 52 hours in the backcountry unprepared after accidentally leaving the boundary of Monarch ski resort in Colorado. The pair were skiing Monarch for the first time on the 25th of January when they exited the resort boundary by accident and dropped into a perfectly fresh powder run down the backside of the resort. According to the pair they saw no signage or rope lines to warn them of the ski area boundary, which was why they went ahead and dropped in.
“Both me and my friend are very experienced skiers and we know the rules, so the idea that this could happen to us means it could happen to anyone.”
After realizing they had left the resort when they came across a snow covered road sign for Old Monarch Pass Road, the duo made attempts to climb back into the resort by retracing their tracks. Unfortunately there was too much snow and it was too difficult to do so. In an effort to stay warm the pair built a snow cave and attempted to light a fire with their only lighter, which fell into the snow rendering it useless.
During day two, the skiers attempted once again to climb into the resort and once again they failed as weather turned for the worse and snow began falling hard. Building a second snow cave and spending another night in the backcountry was their fate along with frostbite and hypothermia. On day three, a backcountry skier happened upon Malin’s friend and immediately skinned into the resort to alert Patrol.
“Ski patrol looked at our snow cave and told us, ‘This saved your life.’ It had dropped below zero, and if it wasn’t for the idea to build a snow cave we would’ve just died of exposure.”
Monarch staff brought a snowcat and Patrol to rescue the pair after their endeavor in the backcountry. The victims were transported to Salida Hospital where they were diagnosed with severe frostbite and hypothermia with the possibility of losing some toes and feet. Fortunately, after some treatment in the hospital the frostbite is under better management and the probability of losing digits is low. Thanks to good fortune and very talented experts, the two are looking forward to a full recovery and returning to skiing.