Stay safe in the backcountry
Ryan Summerlin December 31, 2012
This past weekend a buddy of mine and I scored the deal of the century. The deal was so good that I’m not sure if I can even print it in the paper. Let’s just say that we’re up two running snowmobiles and a trailer for under five hundred bucks.
Believe it or not, after an hour of wrenching on the snow-machines, I spent the last two days exploring the national forest on the east side of Fraser on a 1989 Arctic Cat Jag 340 and a 1986 Bombardier 440.
While they may be old, I kind of enjoy being out there on snowmobiles that could be considered antiques. For reference the Bombardier is older than I am and the Jag was made when I was 1-year-old.
We were even able to locate a few good powder turns in the trees when we strapped our boards to the back of the machines.
While we were hunting powder we were being extra cautious to keep our eyes and ears open to make sure we didn’t get caught somewhere we shouldn’t have been, and we even went as far to dig a couple of pits to check the slide potential of the area.
Because we were in the trees on some terrain that wasn’t very steep or challenging we remained out of harm’s way. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t having fun, making some fresh turns, and above all being careful in the backcountry.
Tis’ the season when the snow starts pilling up. That means more opportunity to get into the backcountry and an increase in the potential for larger and more deadly avalanches.
While we we’re out, we kept hearing the distinct sound of explosives being used to initiate slides elsewhere in the mountains, which served as a constant reminder to remain safe while we were shredding some fresh lines.
Colorado’s first avalanche-related death this season took place on Sunday, Dec. 30, when a member of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was skiing in a permanently closed area of the Hanging Valley Wall, according to a story published online by the Aspen Times on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Patricia “Patsy” Hileman, 49, of Snowmass Village, a 26-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, was skiing alone in an area called Ship’s Prow Glades when she triggered a small slide and was swept over a cliff, according to the Aspen Times story.
The first avalanche death of the season is a stark reminder of the dangerous conditions that can be found across the state. It is also a reminder that trouble can happen to anybody, whether you’re a powder hound who just scored two cheap snowmobiles or a 26-year veteran of the Ski Patrol.
There have been a number of avalanches that have taken place in the area this year including a slide triggered by a snowmobile on Gravel Mountain, in the south of the Never Summer Range, that took place on Saturday, and a natural slide near Jones Pass that was reported on Sunday.
Another incident that took place this last week involved a group of five snowmobilers that became stuck on Buffalo Pass near Steamboat Springs, according to a story published online in Steamboat Today on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers planned to resume their search on Monday for the snowmobilers who were able to call a relative and inform them of their situation, according to the story.
Let these incidents be a reminder to anyone going out into the backcountry to remain safe while you’re out enjoying the recent snowfall.
Check the avalanche danger in your area, follow the avalanche and weather discussions, or submit your own observations to Colorado Avalanche Information Center at avalanche.state.co.us.