A 47-year-old Boulder woman who was rescued after being stranded overnight while snowshoeing suffered some frostbite but is otherwise in “good spirits,” her family said.
Family of Jennifer Cornell said she is being treated for her injuries at a local hospital but issued a statement on her behalf, thanking rescuers and the community.
“We would like to thank the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Eldora ski patrol and all the other volunteers and organizations involved in Jenny’s rescue effort (Monday),” the statement read. “We are grateful she was found alive. Thank you to the amazing Boulder County community for their kindness and support.”
According to a release, Cornell started snowshoeing at the Eldora Nordic Center shortly after 9:30 a.m. Sunday and was expected to follow the Jenny Creek Trail and return Sunday afternoon. Her family called dispatchers Monday morning when they realized she had not returned on Sunday.
Rescue crews began searching on and around the Jenny Creek Trail and eventually found her about 200 feet off the trail, the release stated. Rescuers used a snowmobile to take the woman to the trailhead, where a rescue helicopter took her to a hospital.
“She was definitely quite cold,” Rocky Mountain Rescue spokesman Jeff Sparhawk said Tuesday. “We evacuated her very quickly.”
The search in total lasted eight hours and involved ground crews and an aerial search. Sparhawk said from discussions with Cornell’s family, it appears she lost track of time and became disoriented.
“To the best of our ability (to guess), she just got turned around,” Sparhawk said, noting that recent storms left a lot of snow off trail between the trees where snowshoers typically like to explore.
“That’s when you start to sink,” Sparhawk said. “I could see someone getting exhausted pretty quickly.”
Cornell’s family told officials she was able to lay down tree branches to stay off the snow and shelter for part of the night. She reported seeing lights at some point in the night and tried to make her way toward them downhill, where she was eventually found with the help of a cell phone ping.
Sparhawk said temperatures got down to 6 degrees while Cornell was outside, and he said he was amazed they not only found her alive, but alert and able to talk to rescuers.
“In this situation, I was surprised, surprised she survived the night,” Sparhawk said. “But that’s what we want to see very single time.”
Sparhawk said while Cornell was not on a Nordic trail, there were numerous snowshoe tracks in the area, so he said they can’t be sure where she got lost or spent the night.
“We’ll never know exactly where she went,” he said.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Front Range Rescue Dogs, Boulder Emergency Squad, Eldora Ski Patrol, city of Boulder Water Utilities Department, U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, American Medical Response, Colorado Search and Rescue, Nederland Fire Protection District, Northern Colorado Med Evac, Flight for Life Colorado, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Regional Transportation District and Alpine Rescue Team all participated in the search.
“It was a huge collaborative effort,” Sparhawk said.
While this rescue had a happy ending, Sparhawk urged residents to be careful while in the backcountry, take necessary equipment, know what to do in case of emergencies, and have either a companion or tell others about plans.
“Our mountains aren’t safe all the time,” Sparhawk said.