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With Avalanche Danger High, Rescue Training Is Crucial

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An image from the avalanche rescue training (credit: CBS)

An image from the avalanche rescue training (credit: CBS)

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COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (CBS4) – The Avalanche danger in the high country is high right now and rescuers need to be ready when someone gets trapped in a slide. CBS4′s Jeff Todd was invited behind the scenes to bring a close up look at the vital training.

“An avalanche deployment drill, which involves the sheriff’s department, Search and Rescue, Copper Patrol and Keystone Patrol,” one of the trainers said.

It’s like a white scar on the mountain.

“Some of it is avalanche debris, and some of it we churned up to make look like avalanche debris. We’re trying to imitate an avalanche in the backcountry … the plan was to work with Flight For Life today; have them drop off a flight crew. Obviously with the weather that wasn’t possible, so we came in by ground which we’ll do as well if we can’t fly.”

At first, two responders started checking for beacons and used probes to find bodies. In this scenario some were alive, some were not. But one of the quickest acting members of the team was Avery, an avalanche dog.

“A dog can come in in minutes and locate somebody.”

The drill is in association with a state-wide group called CRAD, the Colorado Rapid Avalanche Dogs.

“The dog detects a scent of someone who’s buried, or an article of clothing, and that scent will come up through the snow and then travel out in a scent cone,” the trainer said. “They will pick up on that scent coming up through the snowpack.”

Many more trainings will happen this winter with helicopters so the dogs can get acclimated to flying, and ski patrols from different mountains can work on collaboration.

“It’s that teamwork of working together, which we don’t get the opportunity to do very often, that’s crucial, especially in our communication.”

Many of the life-saving features and more will be on display at resorts throughout Colorado next week for the celebration of National Ski Week.

LINKS: National Safety Awareness Week | Flight For Life Avalanche Deployment Program | Colorado Avalanche Information Center

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