Search and Rescue helps locate 2 backcountry skiers lost on Buffalo Pass
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Search and Rescue assisted two people who were lost while backcountry skiing Thursday in the area of Buffalo Pass.
Search and Rescue members received a call just before 3 p.m. Thursday from two people who had ventured too far out and ended up in the Fish Creek drainage. They were visiting Steamboat Springs from out of town and were with two other friends on snowmobiles, said Search and Rescue President Jay Bowman.
The couple that ventured out — one on skis and one on a snowboard — left the snowmobilers behind to explore what Bowman said was “really good snow for skiing.”
“This is something we see often and we typically have at least one of these a season if not two or three,” Bowman said. “It’s really good until all of the sudden it’s not and then you’re kind of cliffed out and deep in avalanche terrain.”
The two were able to stay in contact with their snowmobiler friends using backcountry access radios, which Bowman said he recommends bringing on any backcountry trip. The snowmobilers then contacted search and rescue and stayed in contact for almost two hours before volunteers were able to locate the lost men. Both men were OK and did not require any medical attention, Bowman said.
“These guys did the right thing, they hunkered down and stayed put,” Bowman said. “If you’ve contacted Search and Rescue and we’re searching for you, the worst thing you can do is keep moving.”
Bowman said he recommends anyone venturing into backcountry bring a radio or GPS device in case they lose cellphone service and need to call for help. If recreators do not have those devices, Bowman said “the second best thing you can do is always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
“That way we can go to that spot and begin a search with a lot more information, otherwise we’d have no idea where to start,” he added.
It’s a timely suggestion given the current conditions in the area.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning Friday morning for the Steamboat and Flat Tops areas.
A foot or more of new snow and strong winds combined to overload the locally fragile snowpack, according to the CAIC, which stated large, wide and deadly avalanches will be very easy to trigger.
Bowman said backcountry explorers do not have to avoid the backcountry altogether, but should take extra safety precaution and check avalanche conditions before leaving. Those looking to explore backcountry areas should also stay off of and ensure they are not under slopes steeper than 20 degrees, Bowman added.
“You may be on flat ground, but you may be below a dangerous zone,” Bowman said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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