False alarm avalanche rescue deploys helicopter, dozens of volunteers in Summit County

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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — On Monday, Summit County Rescue Group was notified of an avalanche in the area of Elliot’s Ridge. Two people on snowmobiles noticed the avalanche with a partially buried snowmobile and notified Summit County dispatch. 

The snowmobilers also said their avalanche transceiver had picked up a distant signal in the area.

“Flight for Life picked up a rapid deployment team, which includes a dog, handler and snow safety tech, from Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and delivered them to the avalanche site,” said a spokesperson for Summit County Rescue. “Two other dog teams were activated at Breckenridge Ski Area and Beaver Creek Ski Area, as well as 23 team members from SCRG with snowmobiles, two officers from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office with a UTV, and Summit Fire and EMS with a paramedic.”

The owner of the buried snowmobile was later located at home and said the avalanche had occurred the previous day. The man suffered minor injuries and was rescued by the other members of his party.

“If you trigger an avalanche and you are 100% certain that nobody is buried in that avalanche, you should call the non-emergency number for that counties dispatch and report it,” said Anne Battiste with Summit County rescue. “That way we know, no response is needed.”

While Summit County Rescue said the rescue attempt was good practice for the winter season, the situation could have been avoided.

“Helicopters are expensive and we sure wouldn’t want false alarms like that throughout the season,” said Battiste. “We don’t all those resources deployed unnecessarily, we don’t want avalanches to become the little boy who cried wolf and we don’t want helicopters to be put in the air for no reason.”

This winter, rescue groups throughout Colorado are expecting to be busy.

On Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center stated this winter will bring “unusually dangerous avalanche conditions” and people recreating in the backcountry should be aware that avalanches will be extremely easy to trigger.

Three people died in avalanches in just two days during the last week.

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