EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Search and rescue crews in Colorado’s high country are pleading with backcountry users to rethink their next trip to the mountains in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has hit mountain communities hard.

(credit: CBS)

While Colorado’s Public Health Order allows people to leave their homes to engage in outdoor activity, that activity should be limited to lower-risk endeavors, such as walking, hiking, running and nordic skiing.

Vail Mountain Rescue Group President Rob Foster says backcountry skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and sledding/tubing — anything involving mass and velocity, especially in avalanche terrain far from pavement — are not low-risk activities.

Rob Foster (credit: CBS)

As experienced and as careful as you might be, accidents can and will happen, and the chance of that happening escalates with the frequency and volume of outings in the backcountry.

“Be aware that these are not normal times, and that accidents that happen in the backcountry during a pandemic come with a much higher risk to all involved due to the additional threat of COVID-19. Every time you venture outdoors to pursue high-risk activities, you are rolling the dice for yourself, for us, and your community,” Foster explained.

(credit: CBS)

VMRG posted photos on their Facebook page Saturday showing local trailhead parking lots full.

“While you may be able to maintain social distancing when pursuing your chosen outdoor activity by keeping a wide berth from other users you may encounter out on the trail, social distancing goes out the window when something goes wrong and the situation escalates into a matter of life or death. During a backcountry rescue, maintaining a social distance is not possible. Everyone involved in bringing you to safety — yourself included — potentially may be exposed to COVID-19 since you, and we, may be asymptomatic yet still carry the virus. Post-mission, everyone involved may require a 14-day quarantine, impacting our team’s ability to respond to backcountry emergencies, and the resources we can bring to bear in our community’s collective fight against COVID-19,” they cautioned.

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