By Spencer Wilson

(CBS4) – Even with a gorgeous Colorado weekend in the high country, a dark cloud looms over Lake Dillon as Summit County Sheriff Ranger Erin Sirek patrols the waters.

“We’ve had a number of drownings already this season,” Sirek explained on Saturday. “Primarily, on the Front Range in waters much warmer than we have here on Lake Dillon.”

It’s the law for paddleboarders, canoers or kayakers to wear a life vest while on the waters of the lake. It’s now allowed to wade in shallow waters, but it’s still illegal to swim. A big part of that is because the water is so cold. Sirek said she recorded the temperature at 50 degrees Saturday afternoon.

“In cold water, you have 1 minute to get your breathing under control. You have about 10 minutes to self-rescue. And approximately, depending on the water temperature, an hour in the water before hypothermia sets in,” Sirek said.

“The reality is, if you’re not wearing a life jacket or a flotation device, you’re not going to have that hour. You’re going to have minutes.”

Sirek said she sees plenty of people bringing a life jacket along with them on their floats, but not wearing one. That does make it legal for them to be out, but it’s not going to save them if they fall in, according to Sirek.

“It’s frustrating because, you know, lives so easily could be saved, with such small easy choices.”

Sirek would like to see more people take advantage of the free life jackets provided by the sheriff’s office stations around the lake.

“Sea Tow donated 56 life vests that you can borrow and return from our life jacket loaner station here in Pine Cove.”

“Please, please, please come down here, visit us, grab one, borrow it, enjoy your time, be safe and return it for the next person.”

Spencer Wilson