Ullr and his owner Jacob were caught in an avalanche in Chair Mountain, near Marble, CO, Friday, March 17, 2023, which saw one man killed and two people buried. It was unclear what happened to Ullr, but there have been paw prints sighted in the snow near the avalanche, so experts believe that the canine survived the avalanche but is currently lost. The avalanche broke above the treeline on the east-facing slope about one mile south of Chair Mountain, southwest of Marble. The avalanche broke four to six feet deep, 400 feet wide, and ran 2,500 vertical feet over three distinct cliff bands, nearly reaching Rapid Creek in the valley bottom.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center ‘CAIC,’ two backcountry skiers and one rider on a split board were touring in the upper Rapid Creek. Ullr, the dog, often accompanied his owner Jacob on touring trips. The group reached a stopping point about 11,800 feet in elevation around 3 p.m. and then decided to continue upward. The group member on the split board was leading with both skiers behind him when they suddenly heard the collapse, which according to Jacob, the owner of the dog, “sounded like a bomb went off, and everyone froze. The whole slope fractured, and there was nothing we could do.” The two skiers triggered their airbags, and Jacob reached for his dog but was swept off his feet. He said the avalanche “felt like getting thrown around in a washing machine, and I had no control. I remember being airborne as I went off cliffs. I was able to wiggle as the avalanche was slowing down and felt I was close to the surface.” The avalanche swept Jacob about 2,500 vertical feet, the entire length of the slope, and over three cliff bands. Jacob was able to dig himself free, which was slow, as he had broken his hand. From his accounts, it took him about three hours.
At this point, Jacob could see his friend, the snowboarder, about 1,000 feet above him. He went down the mountain without checking on Jacob, but he seemed to be suffering from amnesia. He seemed confused, repeating himself when Jacob radioed him, saying he was messed up. The snowboarder has no recollection of any of this from what appears to be a severe concussion.
Jacob radioed for help at this point, around 6 p.m. He also tried to look for the other skier, who had been carried down the face and over the three cliff bands. His airbag balloon and transceiver had been ripped clean from him in the avalanche. Jacob found the transceiver but not his friend. Fighting pain, exhaustion, hypothermia, and frostbite, Jacob left the accident scene on foot, as he had lost both skis in the avalanche. He walked down Rapid Creek and found their tracks about half a mile from the avalanche debris. Shortly before midnight, three-quarters of a mile from the accident site, he needed to rest. He dug himself a small shelter under a tree. He was found by a search helicopter at 1:05 a.m. on March 18, 2023, and was immediately flown to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he arrived with a core body temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The snowboarder managed to hike to a friend’s house, which he reached at 3 a.m., from where he was taken to the hospital.
At daybreak on March 18, 2023, the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office and West Elk Mountain Rescue began day two of the rescue and recovery operation. They used a helicopter from CareFlight of the Rockies to fly CAIC staff and a member of Aspen Mountain Rescue to the avalanche and search for their friend. He was eventually located buried under about three feet of avalanche debris.
Rescuers saw dog tracks leaving the avalanche debris below the second cliff band and closely following the skin track down the Rapid Creek drainage. Other searchers confirmed dog tracks exiting Rapid Creek through the ravine and onto Gunnison County Road 3. Therefore it is strongly believed that Ullr is still alive.
Red Hill Animal Health Center in Carbondale, CO, has called for help, asking anyone with any information or sightings to contact Ullr’s owner Jacob at 970-596-3221.