Possse gears up for winter rescues

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It took longer than normal but Northwest Colorado is finally tucked in under its white winter blanket of snow. The snow is the pied piper for people who enjoy winter activities, and the Moffat County Sheriff's Posse is ready to help when things go wrong in the winter back country.

The Sheriff's Posse plays a key role in winter rescues, according to Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

"Their support is mainly in the manpower and also in some technical aspects of the rescue," said Grinstead. "They are well-trained and an asset to search and rescue situations."

Lynn Holmes, who in the past has been captain of the Sheriff's Posse and still volunteers for the organization, believes the experience level of members of the posse helps tremendously when things go wrong.

"We're blessed in that a number of our posse people are avid snowmobilers," said Holmes. "We count on them to provide leadership."

That leadership has helped in rescues in the past, according to Ralph Stewart, who has been on the posse for 20 years. Stewart remembers an 11-year-old boy who was rabbit hunting with friends when their vehicle got stuck. The boy volunteered to walk back into town by himself. When the friends later freed themselves and headed back into town the boy was nowhere to be found. The posse headed out on snowmobiles searching for him.

Stewart was part of the group that found him.

"When we left it was cold enough where when I put my knee on the seat of my snowmobile the vinyl cracked," said Stewart. "It must have been 20 below."

The boy was found in an abandoned house wearing a denim jacket, jeans and hiking boots, according to Stewart. He had wrapped himself in some curtains and fallen into the first stages of hypothermia.

While not every person who tangles with winter ends up in trouble, there are some precautions that can be taken to ensure winter fun doesn't turn into winter tragedy.

According to posse members, the most important thing is to dress correctly. Winter recreation calls for clothes that keep a person warm and dry. People should remember that winter weather can change quickly and what starts out as a mild afternoon can quickly change into a cold evening.

People should also take along essential gear. Matches, a solar blanket, food and water should be part of any winter recreationalist's gear.

"It will give a person the ability to spend more time out in the conditions if something should go wrong," said Holmes. "If you a heading out for a day trip make sure you can spend a couple of days."

Knowledge of the area people plan to be in is also vital to making it home safely.

Stewart believes nobody should head out alone no matter what winter activity they plan on.

"What do you do if you're cross country skiing and you injure your ankle or if you're snowmobiling and your machine breaks?" asked Stewart. "It would be tough to get out, but people don't want to think about that."

Thinking ahead can help make a trip into the winter back county more enjoyable.

"The biggest thing is common sense," said Stewart. "Think about what can happen before it does."

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