Avalanches put many others at risk
Residents and visitors have been delighted by this week’s snowstorms but most have had the luxury of ducking inside when the wind really howls and the flakes feel like they are being hurled down from the clouds. Not so for members of Summit County’s dedicated Search and Rescue volunteers and those who work for local law enforcement agencies. The worse the weather gets, the more likely they will be out in it.
That was the case Saturday afternoon when four backcountry skiers triggered an avalanche in the Wasatch Mountains between Salt Lake and Park City. Temperatures were plummeting and the snow was falling sideways when the call came in to dispatch. Most skiers and snowboarders were happy to call it quits for the day but rescuers knew they didn’t have a minute to lose in the fading daylight.
This particular incident had a happy ending. Four embarrassed but uninjured skiers recognized how fortunate they were, not to have been killed by the torrent of snow they unleashed and then to have been safely evacuated by a small army of rescuers.
Unfortunately, when skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers make bad decisions in the backcountry, they not only put themselves in danger, they also put others at risk. They endanger friends and family who are traveling with them and they force those who are obligated to rescue them in potentially hazardous situations.
That can be avoided though with snow safety education, common sense, proper equipment and a healthy respect for the local mountain environment.
Like last year, the coming season looks like it will offer ample snow to satisfy every type of winter enthusiast. Nestled between the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain ranges, Summit County promises to be in the center of all the action from snowmobiling to telemarking.
Fortunately the county can draw on the resources of some incredibly talented search and rescue teams, including helicopter pilots, avalanche experts and rescue dogs. They are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, regardless of how gnarly the weather conditions are. But it is unconscionable to put those people at risk needlessly.
Before heading into the ungroomed back country terrain log on to http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/ or call the recorded avalanche condition hotline (435) 658-5512.
If you witness an avalanche, report it immediately to 911 or to the Avalanche Forecast Center, (801) 524-5304. It is equally important to report snowslides when there are no victims. notifying authorities that that no one was caught by a particular slide, an unnecessary rescue can be avoided and the unstable conditions can be flagged for other winter sportsmen.
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