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Sheriff warns Wyoming backcountry recreation seekers

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

JACKSON, Wyo. ” The sheriff for Wyoming’s Teton County has a warning for people who consider venturing into hazardous backcountry as they pursue fun in the snow.

Rescue may not occur in all cases of distress, Sheriff Bob Zimmer said.

“Folks need to be put on notice to use some good judgment,” Zimmer said. “We’re not going to risk Search and Rescue lives in very adverse conditions to go suck you off a mountain. We’re not going to kill people to try and save people.”

A warning posted on Web sites for Teton County and for the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center says that “backcountry rescues may be significantly delayed or not possible.” Concerns include weather that limits visibility and restricts use of helicopters.

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The snowpack is “different than what we’ve seen in maybe 20 years,” said Tim Ciocarlan, director of Teton County Search and Rescue. “This is just another effort on our part to say, ‘Be careful out there.'”

Ciocarlan added that Search and Rescue always has responded to calls for help. “To date, we’ve never not gone on a rescue,” he said.

He said that on recent flights for search-and-rescue training, he has observed backcountry locations where avalanches occurred.

“Everything is sliding,” he said. “And it’s sliding big. We haven’t seen it like that in many years.”

Avalanche fatalities this winter in the western United States include the deaths of two snowmobilers in Colorado, and the deaths of three people skiing in-bounds at resorts in Wyoming, Utah and California. In Canada, authorities said two people claimed by avalanches at resorts in British Columbia were in areas off limits. Avalanches killed eight snowmobilers near Fernie, British Columbia.

In the Yellowstone National Park gateway of West Yellowstone, Mont., a two-day avalanche awareness class for snowmobilers was scheduled for this weekend.

Avalanche warnings in effect during the weekend included those from Montana’s Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. It said that among places with high avalanche danger were the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone; the mountains around Cooke City, another gateway to the national park; the Washburn range in the park’s northern area; and the southern Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges.


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