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Flagstaff, AZ - The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is reminding backcountry mountain travelers to be alert for potential avalanche hazards on the San Francisco Peaks. Most avalanches occur during and shortly after a storm. As of 3:00pm on Sun 1/27/13 the Arizona Snowbowl reported 26” of new snow on top of the existing snow base. Snowbowl personnel reported some natural collapsing of the snow which could lead to avalanches in unmaintained areas. It is important for backcountry travelers to be aware that no avalanche control is conducted in the backcountry outside of the Arizona Snowbowl Ski area boundary and the backcountry is not patrolled. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders should be aware that current snowfall may not have reached a depth to sufficiently cover obstacles such as rocks and timber in the backcountry.
All out-of-bounds skiers should be aware of increased possibilities of avalanches and use caution if leaving maintained areas. On Tuesday, the winds are expected to pick up and will greatly increase these avalanche dangers. A reminder also that permits are required for backcountry travel in certain areas.
People venturing into mountainous terrain should carry avalanche rescue equipment such as a shovel, avalanche rescue beacon, avalanche probe, and winter survival gear. Be prepared for travel and emergencies in the remote winter mountain environment where rescue is not immediate. Do not travel alone and leave a detailed trip plan with a responsible person. Your best chance for survival in an avalanche is companion rescue. It is important to review recent weather reports and forecasts as well as driving conditions prior to and during your trip. Carrying a cell phone is recommended; however, it may not always work in backcountry locations and should not substitute for good judgment and preparation.
It is recommended that people who use the mountain backcountry receive formal avalanche safety education and winter survival skills. Free avalanche awareness clinics are offered monthly during the winter season by the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center. More information about these clinics and San Francisco Peaks backcountry snow observation reports can be found at www.kachinapeaks.org.
Winter backcountry travel into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area from Arizona Snowbowl requires a free annual backcountry permit. This includes the parking areas at FR 522 and Lamar Haines Wildlife Area. Backcountry permits are available in Flagstaff at the Peaks Ranger Station, 5075 N. Highway 89, and the Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 1824 S Thompson St.
For further information on backcountry conditions and safety in the backcountry please visit the websites of Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center (http://www.kachinapeaks.org) and the Coconino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue (http://www.coconino.az.gov/index.aspx?nid=714).
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Media Contact: Gerry Blair, Coconino County Sheriff's Office, PIO, 928-226-5089