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Remains of skier found in Colorado after 38 years

Rudi Moder was 27 when he disappeared during a ski mountaineering trip over Thunder Pass in 1983.

ESTES PARK, Colo — The remains of a West German skier have been found 38 years after his disappearance in Rocky Mountain National Park.

In February of 1983, 27-year-old Rudi Moder left for Zimmerman Lake Trailhead on Colorado Highway 17 for a two-to-three night ski mountaineering trip over Thunder Pass, according to park spokesperson Kyle Patterson.

Moder was living in Fort Collins at the time and was described as an experienced winter mountaineer.

Search operations began after Moder's roommate reported him overdue six days after he left on Feb. 19, and focused on the Box Canyon and Skeleton Gulch areas. 

Crews in skies and snowshoes, an avalanche search dog and handler as well as aerial support were all deployed to assist with search efforts. However, they were hampered by a foot of snow that fell in the Never Summer Mountains the same day searching began. 

Crews were able to find a food cache that belonged to Moder, along with a snow cave with his sleeping bag and other gear nearby. No other major clues were discovered during the four-day search.

Additional search efforts took place later that spring and summer.

Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park
Helicopter assists with the search for Rudi Moder in 1983.

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In August of 2020, a hiker discovered skeletal remains near avalanche debris in the Skeleton Gulch area, which was part of the initial search area in 1983.

Rangers began investigating after the discovery, but could not complete it because of closures in the area caused by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires, and then snow.

Rangers were able to search the scene more extensively this summer and located skis, poles, boots, and remains of personal items believed to have belonged to Moder.

The FBI Evidence Response Team assisted with the recovery of the remains, which were then examined by the Grand County Coroner's Office, who could not confirm his identification through dental records.

Officials worked with the German government to repatriate Moder's remains, notify his family and obtain and analyze dental records.

"In the decades following Moder’s disappearance, search efforts continued periodically by Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Larimer County Search and Rescue Teams," Patterson said. "The discovery and recovery of Rudi Moder’s remains closes out a nearly four decade long cold case at Rocky Mountain National Park."

Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park
Ground crews search for Rudi Moder in 1983.

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