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Remains found in Colorado national park may belong to man who vanished 38 years ago

Officials believe the remains are of Rudi Moder, a 27-year-old West German man who disappeared during a ski trip in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1983.
Image: Ground search operations for Rudi Moder in 1983.
Ground search operations for Rudi Moder in 1983.Rocky Mountain National Park

Skeletal remains found at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado are believed to belong to a 27-year-old man who disappeared during a ski trip 38 years ago.

Rudi Moder embarked on a two- or three-night trip on Feb. 13, 1983, over Thunder Pass and into Rocky Mountain National Park. Moder, who was described as an experienced winter mountaineer, departed from the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead near Cameron Pass but never returned, the park said in a press release on Thursday.

His roommate reported him "overdue" on Feb. 19, according to the park. A search operation began but was hampered by over a foot of snow falling in the Never Summer Mountains. Search teams were able to find a food cache belonging to Morder at the mouth of Box Canyon and a nearby snow cave containing his sleeping bag and other belongings.

"These were the only major clues discovered during the four-day extensive search," the park said.

Despite ground and aerial searches, Moder was never found.

There wasn't a break in his disappearance until August 2020, when a hiker discovered skeletal remains near avalanche debris in the Skeleton Gulch area, according to the park.

"Rangers conducted an initial investigation at the scene but could not complete the investigation due to priorities shifting to the Cameron Peak Fire closing the area, followed by the East Troublesome Fire," officials said. "Snow then covered this high elevation area above 11,000 feet."

This past summer, park rangers again searched the area and found skis, poles and boots believed to belong to Moder. The FBI's Evidence Response Team assisted rangers with recovering remains found.

The coroner's office has attempted to confirm Moder's identity through dental records but the results were inconclusive, the park said. Moder was from West Germany and was living in Fort Collins at the time of his disappearance.

"Officials have worked extensively with the German government for repatriation, family notification and dental record analysis," the park said.