Our View: A little precaution to prevent tragedy
December 5, 2010
The snowy start to winter this year has been great for skiers and riders, and hopefully will be great for our local economy. But all that snow also has its pitfalls.
The all-volunteer Routt County Search and Rescue team is closing in on a record year in terms of number of calls for service as well as actual missions. Chances are good that both will be eclipsed by New Year's Eve.
As is typical for the nonprofit group that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, the phones start ringing in earnest in late fall and early winter — hunting season and the beginning of winter recreation. In years like this, when the snow flies early and often, the calls increase.
A week ago today, for example, Search and Rescue members responded to three calls for help.
One was for a snowboarder stranded near the north fork of Fish Creek. A second was for a Steamboat man and his daughter who got lost in the Dumont Lake area while trying to find a Christmas tree. The final call was for a local couple who became lost while snowshoeing in the Buffalo Pass area. All three operations had happy endings, and the subjects of two of those calls for service offer their gratitude to Search and Rescue in the Letters to the Editor today.
We're all susceptible to backcountry misadventure, no matter our preferred form of recreation or our level of experience. Accidents and mistakes happen to the best of us, and when they do, we're fortunate to have the dedicated volunteers of Search and Rescue to save our hides. But it's plain foolish for backcountry users to not take basic precautions that decrease the chance of outdoor misfortune.
■ Always tell a friend or relative exactly where you're headed and when you're supposed to return. Leave an itinerary on the front seat of your car.
■ Carry a fully-charged cell phone and/or emergency GPS locator to call for help should the need arise.
■ Bring with you a basic survival pack that at least includes waterproof matches and a lighter; food and water; an emergency blanket; a basic first aid kit; and warm and weather-proof clothes.
Finally, there's one measly purchase all locals and visitors owe it to themselves and the community to make before they head into the backcountry: a $3-a-year CORSAR card that allows agencies such as Search and Rescue to get reimbursed by the state for the expense of a mission. Reimbursement is possible only if the subject of the search or rescue mission is a CORSAR cardholder. Folks with hunting or fishing licenses don't need to purchase a CORSAR card because such a fee already is built into their existing licenses. Those with up to date ATV, snowmobile and boat registrations also already are covered.
You can purchase a CORSAR card at Steamboat Lake State Park, Stagecoach State Park, Straightline Sports, Walmart, Spiro's Trading Post in Oak Creek and the Colorado Division of Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service offices at U.S. Highway 40 and Weiss Drive. We encourage the state and local retailers to expand the vendor list for the cards.
Search and Rescue will respond to all calls, and the subjects of missions are never billed, regardless of whether they possess a CORSAR card or other license. Denver resident Craig Horlacher had an active fishing license when he was rescued from the brink of death earlier this summer in northern Routt County. You may remember that Horlacher broke his leg while fishing by himself in a remote creek. A series of fateful events led to his ultimate rescue. After spending a month recovering in the hospital, Horlacher returned to Steamboat this weekend and hosted a thank-you barbecue for members of Routt County Search and Rescue.
We wish all incidents end as well as Horlacher's did. They don't. Prevent yourself from being the tragic example that others must learn from. Take the proper precautions every time you head out into the wilderness.