A man who skied out of bounds at Durango Mountain Resort on Friday spent the night in remote wilderness before being found Saturday afternoon in the Hermosa Creek drainage, miles from the ski area’s boundary, during a major snowstorm.
Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said Alex Magennis of Cincinnati texted his wife Friday explaining that he had unintentionally left the ski area near Chairlift 8 and planned to ski east to the Needles gas station, a route he and another skier evidently had used about 10 years before in a similar scenario.
“I think that’s where he thought he was going to come out this time, but he ended up going in the opposite direction,” Bender said, “which is not that difficult to do when it’s overcast and snowing. It’s hard to tell directions.”
Magennis’ tracks were found after his wife alerted DMR ski patrol and they confirmed them leaving the area boundary at Butler Creek and notified La Plata County Search and Rescue. By that evening, an estimated 20 searchers were engaged in finding the lost skier.
Instead of traveling east, Magennis, 42, a former Durango resident, was tracked heading south and west into Elbert Creek and Big Lick Creek, where searchers worked through the night. Searchers found areas Magennis had been, one indicating his efforts creating a makeshift snow shelter. They also found some abandoned possessions: a snow shovel, a probing pole and a space blanket, according to the sheriff’s report.
Butch Knowlton, La Plata County director of emergency preparedness, said tracking teams were significantly challenged by the terrain and deep snow and were alternated to keep the search ongoing.
Magennis was found seven miles north of Hermosa Creek Campground, where rescuers provided him with warm food and dry clothing, Bender said.
“He was brought out on horseback,” Bender said. “They had him walk part time and then ride the horse – he was keeping warm that way by walking, but he also was exhausted.”
Knowlton said the rescue was taxing to the six agencies involved and was not an easy feat in the remote backcountry under the inflicting storm. Nearly 400 man-hours were spent finding Magennis, Knowlton said.
“When people ski out of bounds, not only is it dangerous, but it also gets very expensive,” Knowlton said. “When loved ones call, many agencies suddenly become involved in these rescue efforts. It’s huge, and it becomes a significant risk to the rescuers.”
Magennis was greeted by his wife and two children at the Hermosa Creek Campground just after 4 p.m. Saturday.