Associated Press, Published January 14 2010
Minnesota snowboarder missing at VailFamily members of Jasper “Jaz” McGrath of Grand Marais flew to Colorado this week to help look for the 19-year-old snowboarder who has been missing for more than a week.
McGrath, who left Grand Marais in November to snowboard in Vail while staying with his brother, Joe, left his brother’s house to go snowboarding at about 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 and hasn’t been seen since.
Vail Police Sgt. Chris Botkins said his officers received more information on where McGrath liked to snowboard in recent days but that there’s still no clues where McGrath might be, or whether he is even in the Vail area.
“We just don’t have much. There’s nothing suspicious. But we also have nothing to go on,” Botkins told the News Tribune on Thursday.
Joe McGrath said he didn’t report his brother missing until Sunday because he had been working so much and didn’t realize how odd it was that he hadn’t heard from him until later.
“I thought, ‘Whoa, I haven’t seen him in a couple of days. Where is he?’ ” Joe McGrath said.
Vail Mountain Rescue searched outside of the usual ski boundaries, in areas McGrath was known to snowboard, which turned up nothing. Vail Ski Patrol also helped search within Vail ski boundaries, said Eagle County Sheriff's spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly.
“We found two areas where a natural avalanche had occurred so we checked with probes,” Cordingly said.
Dan Smith, of Vail Mountain Rescue, said search crews need two important pieces of information for a successful search — a point last seen and a direction of travel — but that authorities have neither.
“There’s no reason to search anywhere else until there’s more information,” Smith said Wednesday.
Cordingly said the lack of snow in the trees makes it hard to do a search, so until conditions improve or the police get more information about specific areas where they should search, everything is on hold.
Janet Peterson, McGrath’s aunt, said her nephew had friends in Vail that family members don’t know, so they’re hoping more people will come forward and help them look for McGrath. She said it was normal for him to take off with friends for a day or two, but more than a week is really worrisome.
McGrath was living with his brother, Joe, and family members say Jasper would have come back to his brother’s house by now to at least get a change of clothes or his toothbrush, she said.
“We feel pretty helpless,” Peterson said.
Vail Police Sgt. Chris Botkins said there’s not a whole lot for Vail Police to go on — Jasper McGrath didn’t have a job, wasn’t in school and didn’t have a car or a cell phone, Botkins said.
“He’s literally just out here [in Vail] couch-surfing,” Botkins said.
Vail Police don’t know if he ever made it to Vail Mountain when he was last seen heading there from West Vail. Vail Police can’t search pass-scanning records because he didn’t have a lift pass.
“He was going to try to sneak on the mountain, which he had done before,” Botkins said.
Joe McGrath said his brother usually hiked up the face of Vail Mountain near the gondola. He would typically stay on the front side of the mountain when he went snowboarding, Joe McGrath said.
Joe McGrath said he has been asking around, but there are several friends of his brother’s he doesn’t know. He’s hoping for the best — that maybe Jasper McGrath could be couch-surfing with one of them.