Stress threatens Colorado search and rescue teams as calls for help climb during coronavirus

Weary after a year of increased calls and grim missions, Colorado's more than 2,800 volunteer backcountry rescuers are hoping lawmakers can find better funding and support.

Colorado Search and Rescue members across different groups practice during the avalanche media event Thursday, March 11, 2021, on Vail Pass, CO.
Hugh Carey/ Special to The Colorado Sun

As 17 men and women bored into the cement-like snow, even using chainsaws to grind into the ice, an avalanche released behind them, burying their exit road.

“That really showed us how reactive the snowpack was — just riddled with uncertainty and you really just didn’t know,” said Leo Lloyd, a 36-year veteran of La Plata County Search and Rescue who joined his San Juan County colleagues on a grim mission last month to recover the bodies of three men buried in an avalanche near Ophir Pass.

It took two more days of digging to recover the men. Six weeks earlier, and a few hundred yards away, the team had recovered the bodies of two skiers killed in an avalanche.

“Even if you’ve been doing this a long time, it’s still difficult,” Lloyd said. “You get good at putting that image in the back of your head, but all that never goes away. We have some psychological support and we work to get help to our people. But sometimes, it’s hard to admit when you need some help.”

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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