Injured snowkiter is retrieved by Grand County Search and Rescue |

Injured snowkiter is retrieved by Grand County Search and Rescue

Reid Tulley
Grand County, CO Colorado

Grand County Search and Rescue extracted Gary Vaillanbourg, a 36-year-old skier from Idaho Springs, who had broken his tibia and fibula while “snowkiting” at 11,200 feet on Cascade Mountain behind Vagabond Ranch on Sunday, Jan. 13.

“The team did a great job despite it being very, very cold,” said incident commander of the mission, Kymmie Scott.

Temperatures during the rescue were estimated to be 30 below zero, which prompted GCSAR to build numerous fires along the extrication route to warm up rescuers and the subject.

The injured skier and two friends were able to utilize a cell phone and a SPOT device – a satellite GPS messenger that notifies rescuers of a person’s location – to notify dispatch about the incident and to request help at 3:22 p.m. The rescuers were out of the field by 1:45 a.m. on Monday.

Eighteen members of GCSAR, including six new recruits to the team; Grand County Sheriff’s personnel; individuals from Vagabond Ranch; and Cory Ziegler from the Mountain Medical Response Team of Grand County Emergency Medical Services responded to the incident, with Ziegler blazing the trail to reach the injured man quickly as he was reportedly in a considerable amount of pain, according to Scott.

This was the first substantial rescue mission the new members of the GCSAR team participated in, Scott said. “The new members had a great chance to shine and they did awesome.”

Snowmobiles, skis, and snowshoes were used by the members of GCSAR to perform the first snow kiting related rescue with Grand County Sheriff’s personnel provided communications and other forms of support. Helicopters were not able to be used during the rescue due to icing conditions.

Snowkiting is similar to kitesurfing and consists of participants using kite power to glide on snow while wearing either skis or a snowboard.

GCSAR reminds people to be prepared to spend the night out when heading into the backcountry, and that GCSAR does not charge for rescues.

You can follow GCSAR at for updates, survival tips, and rescue stories.

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