SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Ski patrollers participated in avalanche training at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Wednesday.

“They have a general idea, but what we try and do is make it a problem that when they get there they’ll have somebody that is a reporting party and give them some vague details,” said Arapahoe Basin Ski Patrol Director Tony Cammarata.

It’s a training that takes place a few times a year for each ski area.

On Wednesday two patrollers from Arapahoe Basin flew to Vail while two patrollers and their dog flew back only knowing they were headed into a staged avalanche.

“They’ll see simulated avalanche debris and there could be simulated clues that the snow safety tech will need to look for. For instance, a pole on the snow surface or a ski on the surface,” said Cammarata.

One buried party was found by the dog immediately, but probes didn’t reach the person buried.

It’s vital training that mimics real life scenarios.

“You’ll notice that they loaded in the helicopter when the rotors were turning. That adds a little bit of reality to this,” said Cammarata.

This cross-training played out for real exactly two weeks ago in the East Vail chutes in an avalanche that killed a man. Flight For Life picked up a team and dog from Breckenridge to help with the search.

“We have to practice it so it becomes a skill set that’s ingrained within these deployment teams,” said Cammarata.

Ski patrollers from all resorts practice with the helicopter all winter long making sure they’re certified to board the helicopter.

“Every month we go to a Flight For Life hangar and practice the little things that make the difference. Opening the door, closing the door, loading the gear and the dogs, so that those things become things we don’t even need to think about,” said Cammarata.

A-Basin patrollers were ready on Friday when there was a snow slide near Loveland Pass.

Luckily the skier caught in it was able to dig himself out. That is the exact kind of situation in the backcountry that teams are ready for.

“We’re trying to get a team on scene within 15 minutes to increase the survivability,” said Cammarata.


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