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AZ – On February 17 at approximately 2:00 pm the Coconino County Sheriff’s
Office received a report of an adult skier and an adult snowboarder, both from
the Phoenix area, who were lost outside of the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area
boundary. An approximate location was determined from their 911 call which
indicated that they were east of Viet Springs at the top of a cliff. Two deputy
sheriffs and the Search and Rescue Unit responded to the call and hiked into
the pair’s location. Once on scene the skier and snowboarder were provided with
some water and snowshoes and then escorted out to the Viet Springs trail head on
Snowbowl Road. Neither the skier nor the snowboarder was prepared for
conditions outside of the ski area boundary. The area was under a winter storm
warning at the time of the incident which made the conditions potentially more
hazardous for both the subjects of the search mission and the rescuers. The
pair was reunited with family members on Snowbowl Road.
and snowboarders who plan to exit the ski area and ski or ride in the
backcountry are required to have a free Kachina Peaks Winter Backcountry Permit
issued by the US Forest Service at their offices or at the Agassiz Lodge Bar on
weekend days. Backcountry users need to be aware that the backcountry is not
regularly patrolled, and no avalanche mitigation is conducted outside of the
ski area boundary. All winter backcountry users should carry equipment for
backcountry travel including food, water, navigation equipment, headlamp,
emergency shelter material, extra warm clothing, first aid kit, knife or
multitool, fire starting kit or backpacking stove, and whistle for signaling.
If traveling in avalanche terrain an avalanche transceiver, a backcountry
shovel, and an avalanche probe should be carried. A trip itinerary detailing
the travel plans should be left with a trusted person.
the upcoming winter storm, skiers and snowboarders will be tempted to exit the
ski area boundary to ski or ride in the backcountry. A large amount of snow
over a short period of time presents a potential avalanche hazard. It is best
to wait at least a day or two after a heavy winter storm before entering the
backcountry. Skiers and riders who plan to enter the backcountry should have
avalanche education which can be obtained through the Kachina Peaks Avalanche
Center (www.kachinapeaks.org). Additionally,
the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center publishes weekly Snowpack Summaries which
discuss the snowpack on the peaks and potential hazards for backcountry travel.
completing the mission near the Snowbowl, Search and Rescue responded to the
Skinner Ridge area east of Tusayan to rescue two stranded motorists and a dog.
The motorists, from Minnesota, had been following their vehicle GPS from the
Tusayan area to Cameron and the GPS indicated that they should take Forest Road
302 and Forest Road 301A. The forest roads were snow covered and snow removal
is not conducted on those roads. As they traveled they slid off of the road and
became stuck and unable to free the vehicle. Due to the winter storm affecting
the area, conventional vehicles could not access the area. Search and Rescue
responded to the location using two tracked vehicles. The motorists and their
dog were provided with transportation to Tusayan where they obtained a hotel
Search and Rescue Unit would like to remind motorists to not blindly trust
vehicle GPS or smartphone mapping tools when traveling. It is important to pay
attention to road signs and road conditions to determine if the route suggested
is a practical one. In many cases, especially in the winter, the GPS and
smartphone apps do not take into account the weather or road maintenance and many
motorists following those apps become lost or stranded due to the conditions.
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