Steamboat Springs Christmas came a little early for Routt County Search and Rescue as it recently received a tracked-snow machine worth $115,000.
Last Thursday, a yellow tracked-snow machine was delivered to the volunteer rescue group, which is based in Steamboat Springs.
Routt County Search and Rescue was able to purchase the snow machine with the aid of an Energy Impact Assistance Grant the group recently received, said John McArthur, who will become the president of the group Jan. 1, 2001.
"It has been a long time since we have bought anything remotely this nice," said McArthur, a member of the group for about four years. "It will be a good tool to use for backcountry missions."
Routt County Search and Rescue bought the snow machine from Bombardier Motor Corp. of America, located in Grand Junction.
The snow machine is a "BR-180" that is equipped with features tailored for rescue missions, said John McIlveen, district manager of the Rocky Mountain region for the corporation.
The "BR-180" is 10 feet wide and features a snow blade, a 180-horsepower diesel engine capable of traveling close to 13 mph and a cab on the rear of the vehicle, he said.
"They will find that it's a state-of-the-art snow machine," McIlveen said. "It will work out real fine for them.
"The blade on it makes it real versatile because it can blade through snow drifts or make a road. Thirteen mph does not seem like a lot, but when you are moving through snow that is pretty fast."
The front compartment features room for a driver and one passenger, but the rear cab is what excites McArthur most about the new machine.
"The cab is designed like the back of an ambulance," he said.
With the tracked-snow machine, McArthur is hoping to improve rescue missions done in the backcountry of Routt County.
"The primary purpose for the machine is so we can use it as a command vehicle in the backcountry," he said. "It gives us a way to get to a remote site and set up a command center."
Currently, rescue teams use a bus as a command center for backcountry missions, he said.
"The only option we had was the bus," he said. "Unfortunately in the wintertime, we can't get the bus into the backcountry."
Because of this, the bus will usually park on a county road close to the area they are searching. From there, rescue personnel either snowshoe or use snowmobiles to reach the area, he said.
"With the machine we can travel closer to the area," he said. "We will no longer have to send out our team out on snowmobiles or have them hike into an area."
Snowmobiles will not be needed anymore because the rear cab has room for six to eight people, he said.
"We can deploy the team at a site further into the backcountry and also set up a good command platform," he said.
With the bus acting as a command center communication between the bus and the team sometimes became a problem.
"I think it will make communication easier to manage," he said of missions deep in the mountains. "We will be closer to the rescue team."
The cab will also allow for rescue personnel to stay warm during missions in inclement weather, he said.
The snow machine will not only replace a bus but also a 1963 tracked-snow machine that was given to the rescue team by an airline, said Mark Steur, the group's treasurer.
"It's a really old machine," Steur said. "It's not very dependable."
Because the new snow machine is 10 feet wide, the group can haul it on a trailer, he said.
"We needed something we could haul with a truck," he said.
Although the rescue group has received the machine, Steur has yet to receive the bill for it, he said.
McArthur believes the grant will fund at least $100,000 of the cost of the machine. The remaining balance will come from search and rescue's own budget, he said.
"The money will come from a fund set aside for replacing equipment," he said.
Routt County Search and Rescue is funded by Routt County, Steamboat Springs and various fund-raisers the 50-member group sponsors every year.
The group owes a lot of thanks to Scott Havener, who served as president two years ago, and Patti Williams, who has since moved from the area.
It was Havener and Williams who filled out the paper work for the grant two years ago, McArthur said.
"They put a lot of time and effort in to get the money for it," he said. "They had to do a lot of research to get it."
Currently, the new machine is being stored in the Buffalo Pass area, as members of the group get it ready for missions, he said.
"We have to get 25 hours on it before we can use it for service," he said. "We have to break it in."