Winter backcountry hazards on San Francisco Peaks

(CCSO video capture)

(CCSO video capture)

FLAGSTAFF - The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is warning backcountry mountain travelers to be alert for potential avalanche and other winter hazards on the San Francisco Peaks/Kachina Peaks.

Due to the recent heavy snowfall, dangerous avalanche conditions may exist and may remain potentially hazardous for long periods. It is important for backcountry travelers to be aware that no avalanche control is conducted in the backcountry outside of the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area boundary.

Additionally, there is no regular patrol of the backcountry. Once skiers or snowboarders leave the boundary of the Arizona Snowbowl, they are leaving the services of the Arizona Snowbowl and need to be prepared for the conditions they will encounter.

People venturing into mountainous terrain in the winter should carry avalanche rescue equipment such as a shovel, avalanche rescue beacon, avalanche probe, and winter survival gear including extra warm clothing, food and water, headlamp, map, compass, and GPS and be knowledgeable in the use of the equipment.

Be prepared for travel and emergencies in the remote winter mountain environment where rescue is not immediate.

Do not travel alone and leave a detailed trip plan with a responsible person. Your best chance for survival in an avalanche is companion rescue. It is important to review recent weather reports and forecasts as well as driving conditions prior to and during your trip.

Carrying a cell phone is recommended, however, it may not always work in backcountry locations and should not substitute for good judgment and preparation.

It is recommended that people who use the mountain backcountry receive formal avalanche safety education and winter survival skills. Free avalanche awareness clinics are offered by the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center. More information about these clinics can be found at www.kachinapeaks.org.

Snow and other winter related emergencies are occurring throughout Coconino County which means that some resources may be committed on other calls and not available for immediate response. The Sheriff’s Office urges skiers and snowboarders who intend to enter the backcountry from the Arizona Snowbowl to carefully consider the consequences of that decision and determine if they have the training and equipment to safely conduct their intended activity.

During Martin Luther King Weekend, deputies spent a significant amount of time enforcing the Coconino County Winter Parking Ordinance. This was done to remove vehicles parked in the county roadways in order to assist Coconino County Public Works in clearing the snow from the neighborhood roadways. Deputies also spent a significant amount of time addressing snowplay issues that arose in the Flagstaff, Parks and Williams areas. Deputies issued several parking citations to people and vehicles violating this ordinance over the weekend. Deputies also facilitated the tow of several vehicles blocking snow removal.

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