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Lost, rescued cross-country skier dies


(Update: Replacing photo, adding family statement)

One of two cross-country skiers rescued by volunteers who tracked them in the snow northwest of Tumalo Falls last week has died in the hospital, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said Monday.

Lt. Bryan Husband, the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue coordinator, said Ted Gifford, 69, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, died Friday evening at St. Charles Bend. He had been admitted early Thursday morning, after he and Robert Skille, 73, of Silverton, were rescued from the Metolius Windigo Trail. Skille also was admitted to the hospital and later released.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gifford family,” Husband said.

“This tragedy should serve as a solemn reminder of the inherent dangers associated with recreating in the backcountry, especially during cold-weather events,” the lieutenant added.

Gifford’s family said in a statement that Gifford, who died of severe hypothermia, was a distinguished engineer at Schneider International and a renowned expert in the transportation and logistics industry.

“A lifelong avid traveler, sailor and skier, Ted passed away doing what he loved most, Nordic skiing,” the family said. “Ted is survived by his wife, Teresa, sons Duncan (Laura), Ethan (Kristin), sisters Denise and Jeannie and many other loving family members and friends around the world.”

One of the men had made a broken 911 call to dispatchers last Wednesday evening to advise he was skiing on the Metolius Windigo Trail after starting out at Mt. Bachelor, said Deputy Jim Whitcomb, assistant SAR coordinator.

They were tracked to the Happy Valley area and volunteers set out that night, finding the pair about a quarter-mile south of a shelter.

The pair said they had planned a multi-day backcountry Nordic ski trip, stopping each night at warming shelters in the Three Sisters area. But they were unable to find their first night’s shelter and took cover in a tree well overnight.

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