Northern Colorado has the state’s only backcountry ski patrol. And they’re busier than ever.
CAMERON PASS — The wind is swirling snow and shaking the aspens. It’s single-digit cold.
“Such a harsh environment,” says Owen Richard, raising his voice in the gusts as he sticks skins to his skis for another lap in knee-deep powder. “And here we are having fun. So, so lucky.”
Backcountry skiers on Cameron Pass are indeed lucky. Thanks not only to plentiful snow and a wide variety of terrain, but also to Richard, who directs the state’s unique Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol. The backcountry patrol — one of only a handful around the country — has an army of skiing volunteers regularly slipping through the powdery glades beneath Cameron Peak, ready to help at the first crackling call over the radio.
“Our mode of transportation is maybe a bit more refined than the traditional search-and-rescue, right?” Richard says, skinning up a glade below the powder-draped Montgomery Bowl. “They are generalists and we tend to move a little bit further, a little bit deeper, into the backcountry.”
The Diamond Peaks patrollers are on the ground several times a week, connected via radios to dispatchers in Larimer and Jackson counties and State Forest State Park, ready to offer immediate assistance. They are the first wave of first-responders available when a skier gets lost or injured in the snowy forests and alpine ridges.
There are about 50 volunteers with the backcountry patrol, the only one of its kind in Colorado. They take training classes and each member spends around eight days a season patrolling on the pass, a popular zone for Fort Collins residents. Patrollers also teach avalanche education and rescue classes, earning revenue that supports their own training and gear requirements.
Read more from Jason Blevins, Colorado Sun.
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