A 23-year-old Telluride man was hurt after he began a descent of San Joaquin Couloir — the iconic chute in upper Bear Creek, visible from the top of the Telluride Ski Resort — around 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The skier, Derek Nunner, made it about one-third of the way down the chute when he hit a rock, lost his balance and tumbled the rest of the way down the couloir, according to his own report to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.
A hiker in the area saw the fall, which occurred around 1 p.m., and called Telluride Ski Patrol, which contacted the sheriff’s office. Two Search and Rescue members skied to the injured man and assessed his injuries while a third SAR member was picked up by a Telluride Helitrax helicopter and transported to the scene. The SAR team transported Nunner to the Telluride Regional Airport via the helicopter, where he was picked up by a Telluride EMS ambulance crew and taken to the Telluride Medical Center. Nunner was released from the medical center with non-life-threatening injuries, according to a later report from a sheriff’s office spokesperson.
“Operationally, things could not have gone much better,” Sheriff Deputy Mike Kimball, Jr. said in a statement. “Weather wasn’t a factor and we had good access to the skier.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the man was equipped with a helmet, avalanche beacon and a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card.
“We were able to get to him, and he didn’t have to spend the night out there cold and injured. The next guy might not be so lucky,” Sheriff Bill Masters said in a statement. “Do not ski into Bear Creek if you are not prepared for self-rescue, period.”
Nunner did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Nunner’s fall wasn’t the first in San Joaquin Couloir. Another local skier fell about 1,000 feet down the chute in 2013, suffering head injuries and also requiring a helicopter evacuation.
“You get in there and mess it up, and you’re going to take that long ride,” Sheriff Masters told the Daily Planet about San Joaquin at the time. “You need to be ready to accept your fate if you decide to go in there. If something happens, it’s just going to be by the grace of other people that you get rescued.”