With 2 backcountry rescues in 2 days, Steamboat Resort reminds visitors not to venture into unfamiliar backcountry
AT A GLANCE
Steamboat Resort recommends carrying these items if you plan to ski or ride outside of the backcountry gates:
- Backcountry shovel
- Avalanche probe
- Avalanche transceiver
- Extra dry gloves
- First aid kit
- Extra dry hat
- Food that is high in energy
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Ski Patrol completed two out-of-bounds rescues in two consecutive days.
On Tuesday, a visitor exited the Steamboat Resort through a backcountry gate and became lost near Fish Creek Falls, said Loryn Kasten, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. senior communications manager. Ski patrollers were called in after the day’s shift had ended to look for the person, and they guided them back to the Fish Creek Falls parking lot after 10 p.m. Kasten said the person almost went into Fish Creek.
A skier and a snowboarder were rescued Wednesday from the same area. Routt County Search and Rescue was called, but Ski Patrol, again, after hours, was able to get the people to the parking lot on snowshoes around 1 a.m.
“We at the resort believe this is way too early in the season to already be going into Fish Creek Falls (canyon),” Kasten said.
She said that in a great winter, which the ski area is expecting to have, the resort hopes people will enjoy the resort in bounds so Ski Patrol “doesn’t have to keep doing these kinds of search and rescues.”
The ski area’s mantra on backcountry skiing is: “If you don’t know, don’t go.”
“If you’re not familiar with the area that’s accessible by the gates, if you’re not comfortable in those situations … don’t explore it unless you’re with someone who knows what’s going on,” Kasten said.
Within the ski area’s boundaries, hazards are marked, trails are groomed and Ski Patrol is looking out for your safety.
“None of those things happen once you leave the resort boundary, and I think sometimes people who are unfamiliar don’t realize what they’re getting into,” she said.
Kasten said sometimes a person exploring outside of the gates skies into a bad area, and it can create a chain of people who end up where they don’t want to be.
“Everyone follows those tracks because they assume that’s the right way to go, and it’s not,” she said. “If you’re not familiar, if you’re just following some tracks, then you’re not in the right place. Stay in bounds. Enjoy the snow in the resort. Stay safe.”
Though there is no charge to receive aid from Routt County Search and Rescue, there can be one if Ski Patrol rescues a backcountry skier. The resort can charge up to $500 per person for the service.
Kasten said that when Ski Patrol responds to out-of-bounds rescues, it puts a strain on patrollers and takes away resources from the ski resort. During business hours, an out-of-bounds rescue means there are fewer patrollers helping guests skiing in bounds.
“If it’s a situation like it was last night, we’re actually taking ski patrollers who have completed their duties for the day and bringing them back to the resort to have them work very late hours and put them in potentially unsafe situations,” she said Thursday. “We want people to consider what the implications are for the people who have to come help rescue them.”
Kristia Check-Hill, who served as the incident commander for Search and Rescue Wednesday night, said the people did not have a well-charged phone, but they were able to get a call and the coordinates of their location before it died.
“That made it really difficult,” she said.
Check-Hill recommends keeping an adequate charge on your cellphone anytime you head into the backcountry. She also advises against venturing out of the backcountry gates, unless you know where you’re going.
With an above-average snowpack following a snowy winter, local firefighters and wildlife experts are expecting a mild fire season this year, especially at higher elevations.