Vail Mountain Rescue Group Aims High on Colorado Gives Day

Help wanted: raising $$$ to buy a life-saving rescue truck that costs more than a Tesla Roadster

By Tom Winter December 6, 2016

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Difficult, dangerous and - on this day - darn cold. The Vail Mountain Rescue Group in action on Holy Cross during last month's search and rescue operations involving two teen climbers from Colorado Springs.

Image: Cole Carper

Today is Colorado Gives Day, the statewide movement to celebrate and increase philanthropy through giving. Currently in its sixth year, the point of the day is for Colorado residents to support the local causes that they believe in, via online donations through the ColoradoGives.org website. And one of the participating non-profits this year is our very own Vail Mountain Rescue Group.

We became enthralled with Vail Mountain Rescue Group (VMRG) after last month’s dramatic rescue of two teens lost in a blizzard on the Mount of the Holy Cross, and started wondering just how the organization works, and how we might help. The reality is that it’s a pretty basic and simple operation, with all of its financial resources devoted to saving people instead of paying salaries.

In fact, the 40-year-old organization is fully funded via donations and grants, and is comprised of approximately 45 volunteers who manage all the operations and logistics required of rescuing lost and injured backcountry users. They don’t charge for their services and they’ve saved countless lives during the last four decades that the team has been operational.

On Colorado Gives Day this year the Edwards-based organization is aiming high, with the goal of raising $25,000. And, says VMRG’s Tom Schlader, they’ve got big plans for the funds that they raise this year.

“We’ve participated in Colorado Gives day three years now,” says Schlader. “Last year we raised approximately $13,000 to purchase a new snowmobile for rescue operations. This year we’re looking to nearly double that amount.”

"You can’t go to a Ford dealership and buy one of these." - Vail Mountain Rescue Group's Tom Schlader

And double, triple and quadruple it they must because the ultimate goal for VMRG is to use the money generated on Colorado Gives day to replace an aging light rescue truck with a new one, an expense that clocks in at a whopping $125,000--more than a Tesla Roadster.

That’s an impressive number, and as you might expect, any truck that costs that much is going to have plenty of bells and whistles.

“We put hard miles on our vehicles,” says Schlader. “Our current light duty rescue truck is about 10 years old and we’re starting the process to replace it. These are custom vehicles, they have a crew cab so they can carry four people, but the back is designed to carry all of our rescue gear--ropes, litters, medical supplies, all of that kind of stuff. You can’t go to a Ford dealership and buy one of these.”

In addition, the truck has to pack the power when fully loaded to haul all that gear. In the summer, says Schlader, they’ll usually have a trailer with two rafts on it for swift water rescues, or be carrying ATVs to haul injured hikers out of the woods. In the winter those tools are replaced by snowmobiles.

Sure there are plenty of other non-profits in the valley that are deserving on Colorado Gives Day (find a list of them here). But few do the kind of dangerous, difficult and sometimes heartbreaking work that the VMRG does. Because while no one ever plans on going into the wilderness and getting lost or hurt or even dying, it happens. In this regard, it’s nice to know that someone has your back, as well as the backs of all the other climbers, hikers, skiers, backpackers, kayakers and other outdoorsy types in the valley.

Want to help Vail Mountain Rescue Group purchase a new fully loaded rescue truck? Sure you do, because your life--or the life of someone you love--may depend on it. Go here to make a donation.

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