Saturday, March 31, 2012

On Friday, March 30 my brother (Jeff Ipsen), two friends (Tom Califf and Blair Dickhoner), and myself set out to climb to the summit of Buffalo Mountain and ski down Silver Couloir. The four of us met at the Buffalo Cabin trail head around 10 am and started the ascent around 11 am. It was a bluebird day with temperatures around 40 degrees. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day.

The skin/hike up was filled with nothing but great attitudes, jokes, girl talk, and determination. After three hours and about 3,000 vertical, we reached one of the most beautiful summits I have ever experienced. The views were so spectacular; we couldn’t help but give thanks to the Lord and smile in the midst of the magnificent creation. I remember sitting atop this mountain sharing a turkey sandwich with Jeff and said, “I could stay here forever”.  But the inescapable burning for adventure overcame the comfortable serenity of the mountain top. Subsequently, we strapped on our skis and skied through a series of small snow patches, followed by some unstable rock traversing. Finally, four hours later, we had reached the destination of the trip.
At 3 pm, the four of us stood skier s right, atop the 2,000 foot couloir with grins on our faces. The snow was still much harder than anticipated, despite our intended late start. But we continued none the less, just skiing with caution and taking turns to avoid multiple people from getting caught in a potential avalanche. Tom was the first to drop on our first pitch, and skied to a safe location. Blair, Jeff, and then my self followed, and even despite our caution, we all slid out at some point of the ski. The energy of the group at the checkpoint of the second pitch was as strong as ever, filled with the excitement of four avid skiers who had just tasted one of the most powerful couloirs in North America.
We discussed the order of the next pitch, and asked Jeff if he would like to go first. He responded with a grin and sarcastic remark, “Why, so I can steal all the fresh pow.” After a short laugh, Tom led the second pitch and stopped at the junction where another chute funnels into the Silver Couloir. Jeff gave a short, “Woop woop” and dropped in like a pro. About half way down this pitch he hit a patch of hard packed ice that his skis were unable to hold, and he went into a tumble where both his skis ejected. He was left with nothing but his stylish neon pink ski poles to stop himself. Jeff did exactly what he was supposed to do, and rolled onto his stomach, dug the toes of his ski boots in the steep and icy ground, and jammed his ski pole above his head in an attempt to self arrest. The snow was so firm and grade so steep, he was barely able to slow himself. Tom took off from his checkpoint, risking his own life and skiing like a hero, after my brother whom I last saw attempting a self arrest, speeding around a bend.
               Blair and I tried to stay composed and ski with proper avalanche precautions while we picked up Jeff’s skis and the one ski pole he was not using to self arrest. I was praying to the Lord that I would see my brother just around the bend, laughing at the fact of just overcoming certain disaster. But once I got around the bend, all I could see was Jeff’s other ski  pole stuck amongst the rock on the right side of the run. At this point, my heart dropped and my stomach rose into my mouth because I knew this was bad. I continued skiing down as carefully as possible to avoid any other accidents and praying to see them laughing around each upcoming bend. It wasn’t until I was at the bottom of the run when the couloir widens, did I see Tom kneeling over my motionless brother. My world flipped upside down and I bolted for the two of them.
                Even from a distance I could see that Tom had already called Flight for Life, stabilized, and secured my brother by positioning him perpendicular to the hillside on a compacted shelf and was supporting his neck. The wounds and distortions of my brother's body were stomach-twisting, but the joy in my heart to see that he was still breathing filled my body with a burst of optimism and adrenaline.  Tom immediately filled me in on the existing symptoms and gave me directions on what to do. Jeff’s right leg was bleeding profusely and was mangled severely.  We were directed by medical personal over the phone not to tie a tourniquet but just to apply significant pressure to the wound.  So I knelt beside my brother and took his left hand in my right while I applied as much pressure as possible to his right quadricep with my left hand. Tom was right beside me supporting Jeff’s head and ensuring his airways were open. Blair had arrived on scene and quickly wrapped Jeff in a space blanket, extra jackets, and the very hat Blair was wearing. He proceeded to then provide assistance and relief to both Tom and myself as needed and write down all vital symptoms to have ready for the medical personal.
                So there the four of us were, huddled around Jeff in the middle of the Silver Couloir, doing everything we could to keep Jeff alive. We had nothing but basic medical gear, prayers, and determination. Over an hour went by with us assisting each other as needed and communicating with the first responders. Jeff’s vitals seemed to be stable and all thoughts of failure were distant or obsolete. Then a blessing came from out of the woods. A man named Tim from the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) aided our assistance and ensured we were doing all we could. He had more direct communication with the first responders and helped give us hope. Then after nearly two hours from the accident, Jeff’s breaths started to decrease. Within ten minutes, he went from 36 breaths per minute, to 24 bpm, to 12 bpm, then to 6 bpm. At this point, the world flipped once again, and fight or flight responses kicked in. All hands were on him supporting his head, pressurizing his wounds, and I proceeded to give him assisted breaths for what seemed an eternity.  But no matter how hard we tried, his lungs failed to respond. After about 4-5 minutes, his heart stopped. Tim started chest compressions and I continued applying breaths, two at a time between the 15 compressions. Medical personal were on the ground and coming as quickly as possible, but were just beyond a close ridge. Tom assisted Tim with chest compressions and after about 10 minutes of CPR, the first of the medical crew arrived on scene; Blair relieved me while the first responder relieved Tom and Tim.
                More medical crew arrived on scene and performed more technical procedures while the four of us (Tom, Blair, Tim, myself) huddled nearby, praying for hope! Everybody worked so hard but after his heart had been stopped for over 30 minutes, he was pronounced dead around 5:30 pm. We all said our goodbyes to my brother and were guided out by search and rescue members, while over a dozen stayed to help safely transport Jeff’s body from the mountain side. My parents were waiting for me when I arrived at the search and rescue camp around 9 p.m. and we waited for more than three hours until we were all able to once again send final regards to Jeff’s body.

Jeff was my only and older brother by three-and-a-half years. He was the best one I could ever ask for and words cannot describe how much he means to me. I am so thankful to God that I was blessed to have him protecting me for my entire life. The gifts Jeff has shared with me will live on forever and his spirit runs stronger than ever in my mind, heart, and soul. He died doing what he loved most, and I am so blessed to have been there beside him for his last breaths. All of those involved in the rescue mission performed to their fullest potential, and I am so grateful for the Summit County Search and Rescue Group, Flight for Life, and Tim from CAIC. Tom and Blair were unbelievable during this whole unfortunate event for both my brother and myself. Nobody can predict how someone else will react in such a traumatic situation as this, but I could have asked for nothing more than to have the two of them at our sides. I am forever indebted to these two brave men for their heroic actions and support. Thank you all for everything, Jeff is smiling down upon us at this moment wishing he could be here to comfort us; so I ask that you remember him for who he was, and grieve his loss not with tears but love and stories.


  1. You and your brother are in my heart and prayers. I'm always here for you when you need it. I love you both like brothers and am grateful to still have you left in my family.


  2. I am truly distraught over the news. Jeff was the first student I got to know at Legacy. He was such a great person to be around. I always enjoyed seeing Jeff around after graduation. Always had that big smile that you couldn't help but to smile back. My heart and prayers go out to the Ipsen family.
    Glenn Gielas

  3. I worked at Legacy when the school opened. I had the pleasure of getting to know many of the students.

    My daughter, Ashley Cox, was a freshman. Jeff and her became friends quickly.

    Knowing and observing many young men at Legacy, Jeff always struck me as the winner, so respectful, a joy to be around, a bright light.

    A Star.

    Ashley and I are so sad. Lindsey and Holly also send their prayers. Ashley had the gift of reconnecting with Jeff just these past months, actually had a lunch date soon.

    In Heaven, Ash said, as tears streaked her face. In Heaven.

    Heartfelt prayers to Jeff's family,

    Helen Rand, Ashley, Lindsey and Holly Cox

  4. We are all so saddened by this sudden and tragic loss of such a vibrant person! Jeff was a blessing to everyone he met. Both my husband and I enjoyed having classes with Jeff at Legacy/Westlake and our hearts are with all of his family. We'll be lifting you up earnestly to the Lord and praying for God's comfort, peace and joy to fill this void.


    Nicole London

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. While terribly tragic, by you sharing you story you have truly honored your brother and made venturing into the mountains more meaningful. I will keep you in my heart and prayers.

  6. Todd - My heart goes out to you and your mom and dad in this time of loss and great sorrow. I remember you and your brother as small boys, playing with Reid and Joshua. I see that you both grew into outstanding young men with love and adventure in your hearts. Please tell your parents I send my deepest sympathies - and thank you for writing such a poignant story to share your brotherly love.
    Cindy Hill

  7. Todd, my deepest heart-felt condolences to you and your mom & dad. It's not just lip service that Jeff was a tremendous young man. I had just mentioned Jeff 2 weeks ago to a friend's son who is going to the School of Mines and was trying to decide between Mechanical Engineering and other engineering fields. I gave him the same advice I gave Jeff - only go after mechanical if that is truly where your heart is and you can make very good grades, because the jobs in that field are very tough to come by. I told him I knew of one person, Jeff, who despite this advice still went for it, and became a shining example of how you can buck the trend! Probably the most cherished memories I have of Jeff is from my Creation & the Bible presentations, as he was in the first class I ever gave, and had been in several classes since during his High School years. He was not only always incredibly respectful, he really "got it", and embraced the truth of creation. We would sometimes talk after class, or later in the fellowship hall, about the great ingenuity of the Creator. He had that "engineers" mind.

    Well... while I am 100% certain that Jeff is now with the Ultimate Engineer, the Creator Himself, I apologize I was not quite able to honor your wish regarding tears....

  8. Todd I'm a good friend of your uncle Mark. Thank you for sharing such a heart felt story. I took my son out skiing a couple weeks ago, nothing this extreme but the mountains are majestic as you stated. Just reading this I can tell how brave and how composed you and your friends were. To keep your wits and think straight in a situation like this says a lot about you and your friends character. You and your family is in our thoughts and prayers. Hold onto those memories forever.

  9. Todd, I am not sure you would remember me, but I am one of Lauren's friends and had the privilege to get to know your brother over the course of a couple of years. I am devastated to hear this news, and I am afraid that I also have had trouble honoring your wish for no tears. He had such a big smile and an even bigger heart. I have so many wonderful memories of him, and I will cherish those forever. Thank you for sharing the story. It was difficult to read, but you and your friends were so brave, and you were right there for him when he needed you most. My heart goes out to you and your family as you grieve for the loss of someone so special. You are all in my prayers.


  10. That was beautifully written, I'm so sorry for your loss. My prayers go out.

  11. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for sharing this story and your brother with all of us. He was such a great person who only brings positive memories to mind. Strength and love to you and your family during this difficult time.

    Sam Marquez

  12. Jeff, thank you for the beautifully well written story about your last day with your brother. I have read it several times now and have cried each time thinking about what you had to endure that day. I know how much both of you mean to your mother and father and can't imagine the pain you all must be going through. Robin and I will keep your family in our prayers. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  13. Todd - I am a friend of a friend of Jeff's, so I did not know him. Your love for your brother and your hope to carry him memory in a positive light is so apparent. You and your whole family are in my thoughts.

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  15. Todd you are truly such an amazement in your attitude in this situation. You are truly an inspiration. I'm so sorry with what happened, but all you need to remember is how amazing your family is and what a great brother he was....I remember when we were all still in youth group, and we were kidnapping ppl. Jeff was so insistent that we were nice to you when we went in for you. I remember thinking that it was so awesome he was such a great big brother and so protective of you. I wished I had an older brother that was just as protective of me, then I realized that I was the oldest I could be that way for my younger brothers. That was I think the best thing about being in Jeff's presence, you always walked away with a smile and the want to be better person. Keep the good memories you had with him close to your heart and like you said he is now looking down watching over you and your family. God bless you all and I truly am sorry for your loss.

  16. My thoughts and prayers go out to you Todd, your family, and friends. I cannot for the life imagine myself in that situation, but it's bittersweet in knowing that your brother was surrounded by the best people during those final moments.

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    1. We briefly passed while you were preparing for your day in the parking lot. I had just completed the same tour. I was shocked and saddened to hear this news when I woke on Saturday morning. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your friends. Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story. My deepest condolences.

  19. Todd,
    Thank you so much for sharing this, it's powerful and gives a beautiful glimpse of hope amongst the tragedy. Though we don't know each other, your faith has inspired me. Many prayers for you and your family, brother.

  20. I got to know Jeff on a personal/business level since last May. He was a very smart and witty friend. He and I hit it off on the phone right away because we had the same passions. Mountaineering and Skiing was the usual theme of our talks before we began talking business, plus the fact that my Washington Huskies were now going to blast his Colorado Buffaloes away in the new Pac 12 conference.

    Jeff was very smart, a very fun person to be around. The first time we met it was in Toronto on business. He was a blast and we had some great times then and since then. Sadly he is one of many friends of mine who has died up on the mountains, but like the others, he died what he loved to do, with his brother who he always talked about. A loss, but a gain among God who sits high upon the mountain.

    My family's thoughts and prayers are with the Ipsen family as they mourn their loss. We wish the Lords blessings upon you all.

    Tobin - Seattle, Washington

  21. I hope the following thought will give comfort to Ann, Dave and Todd. Our sincere condolences for your loss, may you find comfort in memories and prayer.

    Jeff was a skier, adventurer, a brother, and an avid believer in God. He love to appreciate Gods beautiful world. In his last hours, he did not fall to his death, but soared into heaven, leaving his body behind for friends and family to say goodbye. I know he is watching over his family, and will always be watching from afar.

    Kathryn and Mark Schlager

  22. Todd, thank you for sharing your story during this difficult time. it is a sobering reality check on what many of us routinely do in the bc.
    My deepest condolences to you, your family, and friends. Sending you all prayers and positive vibes.

  23. We in the ME department at CU Boulder are devastated by the loss of Jeff. He was a treasured student of ours and our prayers go out to you and your family. Shelly Miller

  24. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Keep the stories and celebration of Jeff's life going.

    Alyson Katz

  25. I don't know anyone involved, but I've skied that couloir and I have a brother, too. The story brought tears to my eyes. What a tragedy, but you have a great way of being so hopeful.

  26. Your family is special to our family and we are all sharing your grief and holding you tight in our prayers. The Beemer Family

  27. Although we don't know anyone involved we are connected through our church, Risen Savior. Since hearing about this tragedy we have been praying God's peace and healing for your family. The Pauluhn Family

  28. Todd,
    I want you to know I am sending you, your family and your all of your loved ones all the light and love I can muster. What you wrote was beautiful. I am so truly sorry for your loss and would love to be able to support you however I can. Please know you are loved.

    Erin Cunningham

  29. Dear Todd,
    Both my children have been students of your Mom's at LMS, and I can assure you that she has spoken lovingly (and humorously) about you and your brother on occasion. I cannot imagine the loss all of you are feeling right now, and our hearts are with you. It is, indeed, a reminder to actively share the love we feel each day. All prayers to you and your family..

    Britta Ross

  30. Todd, Thank you for such a sad but beautiful story. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. My most memorable time was during the blizzard several years ago the snow went up to your roof top and all the younger kids in the neighborhood were all out playing in the snow, making tunnels and then you and your brother decide hey we can snowboard out of the window off the roof top. I was a little scared for you guys, but you looked like pros going down that mound of snow. So,you were exploring many years ago. What a great family to have lived across the street from. The younger kids always looked up to you guys.
    Taylor, Hannah, Kelsey and Megan Carpenter. Gina, Daniel and Krystal Nival.

  31. Todd,
    I am so Sorry for your families loss. We are part of the LMS family and your mom is "our" math teacher. Thank you for your writing, I will share it with my kids this evening. We will reconfirm how important our family and friends are to us. Again I am so sorry to hear this.
    Susan Jorquera

  32. Todd, I am Blair's younger brother. Some of my best memories are of us together on the top of a peak or wading in a trout stream. I am guessing you and your brother shared many similar moments. To lose him like that, I can't imagine. I am so sorry for your loss. But thank you for sharing your love for Todd. Your courage and gratefulness for the time spent with him is truly inspiring to me. I will cherish my relationship with my brother even more. So for that, I thank you.
    My thoughts and prayers for your family, James

  33. My brother Gary Schoenike told me about this sad news. I've skied in Colorado for many years and have always reflected upon the times skiing with my brother in the Rockies as some of the best days of my life. None of us can tell when our time hear ends and the next journey begins, but from what your day on March 31, 2012 tells me is that your brother left this place doing one of the things he loved the most and that he was not alone when it was time to move on to the next journey ~ All our thoughts and prayers, Dave Schoenike - Chicago, IL

  34. Todd,

    You are an incredible individual and an excellent writer. You truly are an inspiration. All of our thoughts and prayers are going out to you and your family at this time. What a privilege for your brother to be doing what he enjoys most and to be surround in good company and with an amazing little brother at his side. We are extremely sorry for your loss, Todd, stay strong!

    Katie Bradshaw & Taylor Brewer

  35. I met Jeff in college and graduated with him. We went through the Mechanical Engineering program at the same time, and had several classes together. I remember he always had a smile on his face and was a blast to be around. If there is one bit of solace to this tragedy, it is that he was doing what he loved. So sorry to hear about this.

  36. Todd & Family - my son is in your Mom's math class. We came to learn of you and your brother's plight thru the school community. Thanks for sharing your tragic, yet inspiring experience with all of us - our hearts and thoughts go out to you, Ms Ipsen, and your family. Your story reminds us just how precious every moment is - again thanks for sharing and take care.

    The LeNeveu's

  37. Dear Todd and family,
    My name is Liz Stafford, I am Valerie Brown's mom. I just want you all to know how you have affected myself and my daughters in the most beautifully positive way in how you are handling this tragedy with faith in God and all that is good. My heart is with all of you right now. I can not tell you how Jeff's story resonates with me that he was a faithful person to his brother and to God. May you find peace in this and realize that Jeff's life continues to have a positive effect on people like me who did not even know him personally.
    Liz Stafford

  38. Hello, I am Shelli Thompson Panicucci, a high school friend of your mother. I am very, very sorry to hear of your loss. I just read your account and am weeping. Your words are so very beautiful. Everything I want to say seems so trite in comparison. Ann will remember that I too lost a brother, at the prime of his young life. Your faith will indeed see you through. And of course the love and support of family and friends. I'm holding you all very closely in my heart and prayers.

  39. I think about this accident from time to time, I'm sorry for your loss.