SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The family of a man killed in an avalanche last week is hoping to honor his memory through donations to the search and rescue team that recovered his remains.

According to Summit County officials, 31-year-old Benjamin Ryan died while backcountry skiing on Bald Mountain on Saturday. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said he was caught and buried in a small avalanche.

Summit County Rescue Group was called and dispatched to respond. 

“We are an all-volunteer team of about 70 people, and our responsibility is to rescue people in the backcountry,” member Charles Pitman said. “All year long, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day … If you’re in distress, we’re the team that will find you and get you out of trouble.”

He said it took the team almost 12 hours to locate and recover the skier.

“We don’t get a lot of fatalities,” he said. “Some of them affect me more than others. This one did. You read the obituary and the type of person he is, and I think I can see the character in Ben in a lot of our teammates. He loved the outdoors. He sort of went his own way. And that’s, to be on search and rescue, that’s sort of what a lot of us are like.”

Summit County Rescue Group relies on donations

According to a GoFundMe created after Ryan’s death, he was an avid outdoorsman with a zest for adventure and life. It says his family plans to donate all money raised to Summit County Rescue Group.

Pitman, who has been with the rescue group for 19 years, broke down in tears thinking of the gesture.

“It’s really something for us to have the family feel so strongly that they want to donate that kind of funds to our team,” he said. 

Summit County Rescue Group is a non-profit organization that relies solely on donations and grants to operate. They do not charge for any of the help and services they provide. 

“I can’t tell you the number of times over the years we find somebody that’s lost or injured and literally the first words out of their mouth is: How much is this going to cost me?” Pitman said. 

He said Summit County Rescue Group hopes the money donated in Ryan’s name will help them continue to save lives in his honor.