‘Stressed to our limits’: Avalanche rescue groups illustrate intensity of each rescue mission

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VAIL, Colo. (KDVR) – Colorado search and rescue groups are urging backcountry recreationists to avoid the backcountry ahead of this weekend’s major winter storm.

Officials tell FOX31 there will be a greater potential for avalanches this weekend and on Thursday, rescue groups came together to illustrate how intense each call can be.

“We are out there because this is Colorado and this is what we do but there are consequences to our actions,” said Jeff Sparkhawk with Colorado Search and Rescue. 

Search and rescue teams have been silently doing their job for years but cannot be hidden heroes any longer.

“For decades that has worked in Colorado, but in recent years the mountains are busier, so we are busier and we are getting stressed to our limits,” said Dale Atkins with the Alpine Rescue Team. 

“Theres not an infinite number of volunteers, there’s only so many of us and we have to figure out a better way to do this,” said Sparkhawk.

So far this winter, eleven people were killed after getting buried in an avalanche. Vail Mountain Rescue said their call load has doubled over the past five years and while they continue to urge new backcountry skiers to educates themselves and have the right gear, the majority of those eleven avalanche victims this winter were backcountry veterans.

“Those eleven avalanche deaths this year, there are a lot of kids effected. They no longer have a father; we have to be thinking about that. We have to be weighing the risks appropriately,” said Sparkhawk.

“There are some very lucky people that do survive for many hours under the snow and it’s because some people do, that gives us a glimmer of hope, that the next person we find could be that lucky person,” said Atkins.

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