Vermont State Police received a 911 call at 6:30 pm Saturday reporting that two skiers were lost after going off a trail at Stowe Mountain Resort, VT. Following a two-hour search, police found one of the skiers, a 36-year-old man from Connecticut, dead at the bottom of a 220-foot cliff. The other skier, the 35-year-old brother of the deceased, was found uninjured. Crews helped him out of the woods.
Andrew Hryb, 36, of Darien, CT, and his brother Alexander, 35, of Norwalk, CT took the Sensation Quad up, planning to ski a backcountry area off Stowe Mountain Resort’s Spruce Peak, that drops down the backside of Spruce Peak through glades to the east side of Smuggler’s Notch. They had skied this area before, reports VT Ski & Ride.
“At 5:30 p.m., one of the brothers texted a friend that they were having difficulty finding their way,” said Neil Van Dyke, Search and Rescue Coordinator for Vermont’s Department of Public Safety and a former leader at Stowe Mountain Rescue. “They had a topo map and apparently were experienced skiers, but just got turned around up there.”
According to a release by Vermont State Police, the brothers traveled an estimated 1.5 to 2 miles from Sensation Quad lift at Spruce Peak through the woods before coming to the top an ice climbing route known as Doug’s Route, located across the Notch from the Hellbrook Trail. It appears that Andrew lost his footing while trying to look over the edge of the approximately 220-foot cliff and fell.
“This was one of the most difficult rescue operations I’ve experienced,” said Van Dyke. “Stowe Mountain Rescue started to go up to one of the cliff bands where Andrew had fallen but made the decision early on that it was too risky,” Van Dyke said.
As night fell, Van Dyke called for assistance from the Army Mountain Warfare School, the national mountain warfare training arm for the US Army, who train regularly in the cliffs and rugged terrain of Smuggler’s Notch. Five soldiers assisted Stowe Mountain Rescue’s team of seven. Two members of Colchester’s Search and Rescue team also helped.
Police say the death does not appear to be suspicious. The exact cause of death is currently unknown, and an autopsy will be completed.