Local backcountry rescue groups remind public to report avalanches of all kinds
SUMMIT COUNTY — Local backcountry rescue groups are reminding skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers to report avalanches they witness or trigger, especially if they are sure nobody was hurt or buried in one. The report of an uneventful or victimless slide might save rescue teams the risk and cost of conducting a search.
An avalanche reported after the fact, when it’s unclear if anyone was caught or buried in the slide, mandates a large response by rescue operations groups to check for potential victims. Rescue response might include Flight for Life helicopters, trained dog teams, ski patrol and specialized search teams. Once dispatched, they have to do the dangerous and time-consuming work of combing avalanche debris to check for potential victims or survivors.
Another benefit of reporting an avalanche as soon as it happens is the potential for better study of conditions in the area by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. That organization’s research may help with forecasting future avalanches and the avalanche danger in the area.
“If an avalanche is new, as in the last couple of days or so, it’s pretty obvious because the chunks of snow will look very fresh, the edges will be very ragged and the snow will be mixed up,” said Summit County Rescue Group spokesman Charles Pitman.
On the other hand, an older avalanche “will have new snow covered on top of it, which means it’s probably two to four days old.”
In that situation, if nobody had been reported missing in that area recently, it’s a pretty safe bet that the avalanche was uneventful and doesn’t require a large response.
To report an avalanche in which there were no burials or injuries, call a non-emergent dispatch number: 970-668-8300 in Summit County or 970-479-2201 in Eagle County. The information should include the location of the slide (GPS coordinates, if available), approximate time of the slide, approximate size and the fact that there are no burials or injuries (or, if there were burials, the individual(s) were successfully extricated with no injuries). A contact number should be left in case the rescue group or CAIC wishes to obtain further information or clarification. If there is an emergency (i.e., burial or injuries or unknown) call 911.
It would be really hard to spark a wildfire anywhere near Vail Mountain or Beaver Creek right now. Still, unattended campfires will always draw attention.