Steamboat Springs community says ‘thanks’ to Routt County Search and Rescue |

Steamboat Springs community says ‘thanks’ to Routt County Search and Rescue

Routt County Search and Rescue founding member Chuck Vale, left, visits with longtime members Kristia Check-Hill and Darrel Levingston during Search and Rescue's 50th anniversary celebration Saturday at the base of Steamboat Ski Resort.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This year, Routt County Search and Rescue planned to host their annual celebration to say thanks to the community. Steamboat Springs residents had a different agenda by coming out and saying thanks to those that have helped their friends and family members.

“I just came to thank them,” Steamboat resident Cathy Kurtz said. “I’m about to start crying.”

Kurtz and her husband are friends with Denver resident Craig Horlacher, who was 57 years old when he was rescued in 2010 in North Routt County near the Wyoming border.

Horlacher broke his leg while fishing and spent six days stranded in the backcountry.

He was incoherent and suffering from hypothermia when rescuers found him.

This year, Search and Rescue decided to host a celebration for their 50th anniversary instead of a fundraiser.

They worked out a deal with Steamboat Ski Resort to offer $20 tickets for mountain coaster rides and activities.

Many stories were shared during the afternoon.

North Routt County resident Chuck Vale, who helped found Search and Rescue, attended the event. He recently reunited with the survivors and rescuers he worked with at the Rocky Mountain Airways Flight 217 plane crash site on Buffalo Pass.

On Dec. 5. 1978, the plane crashed an hour after takeoff during a snowstorm with 22 people on board.

The young Search and Rescue team, with the help of others, was able to save all but one person in the crash.

During the reunion, Vale got to meet the flight’s first officer, Gary Coleman.

“He was pronounced dead twice,” Vale said.

The reunion at the crash site was emotional, Vale said, while attending Saturday’s 50th anniversary Search and Rescue celebration and visiting with the volunteers.

“I had no idea what I was getting into, and then to come down here and see these dedicated volunteers is pretty cool,” Vale said.

While reflecting at the event, Vale held a manila folder filled with Search and Rescue history.

He also had a copy of “Miracle on Buffalo Pass,” a book written by Harrison Jones about the crash.

He brought the book to the recent reunion.

“Look at all these signatures,” Vale said while opening the front pages of the book. “I was pleased to meet them. They were more pleased to meet us.”

Both the new and veteran Search and Rescue volunteers were grateful to meet their fans during Saturday’s celebration.

“Seeing something like that, that’s cool,” 20-year-volunteer Kristia Check-Hill said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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