SUMMIT COUNTY - Avalanches in Colorado have killed half as many people so far this season compared with the same time last year. But officials warn that below-average snowpacks continue to create temperamental conditions and rescue teams continue to log thousands of hours training for the worst.
More than 25 volunteers from the Summit County Rescue Group participated in a rapid avalanche-deployment exercise in Mayflower Gulch, near Copper Mountain, on Saturday.
"We train for the worst-case scenario," said John Reller, a team leader with the group. "After all this, we hope the training goes smooth, and that helps us when we do get that real call."
To date, three people have died in avalanches this season.
In a continuing effort to decrease the time between when rescue crews are alerted to an avalanche and when they arrive on scene, the Summit County Rescue Group, like many emergency crews, has coordinated with ski resorts in the area and Flight for Life Colorado. When the team is called out, and if a helicopter is available, a search dog, a handler and a snow technician are airlifted directly to the avalanche site.
In addition to helping coordinate the exercise, Reller, who has volunteered for search and rescue for more than 20 years, also trained one of the team's most valuable members: Recco, a 3-year-old golden retriever.
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