Winter Rescue Team

La Sal Mountains & Back Country
The La Sal Mountains begin 15 miles southeast of Moab. Spreading south from Grand County into San Juan County, Utah, and east into Colorado, they reach an elevation of 12,721 feet above sea level.

In winter their white tops contrast with the red rock mesas below them. Distant vistas and quiet meadows greet the winter traveler. There are only a few roads open during the winter. Some private cabins exist but there are no ski resorts, no lifts and no ski-patrols on the mountains. This is all back country.

Danger goes hand in hand with the beauty. Avalanches are most common on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees. The La Sal mountains average slopes of 38 degrees.
Winter Rescue Team Start
In January 1992, a group of local avid winter sports enthusiasts started the Winter Rescue Team, meeting regularly during the winter months to train. Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) had Incident Command responsibilities.

With the increasing number of people using the mountains, GCSAR has placed a greater emphasis on winter rescue, holding joint training sessions with the Winter Rescue Team in the mountains, working on pre-planned rescues and probe line exercises. Some people hold membership in both groups.

Helpful Equipment
We have several skiable sleds for rescues in accessible and inaccessible terrain. In 2004 we received 2 snowmobiles, making it easier for us to train with the equipment, faster for us to get them moved whenever needed and faster to move skiers into the areas needed. Motorized equipment makes more things possible but there are many places that can be reached only on "foot". Rescues are time consuming.

We continue to be in charge of moving equipment and Incident Command responsibilities on site but now travel beyond the headquarters location with the Winter Rescue Team.

Enjoy the snow but please, always let friends and family know: when you are due back, where you plan to be and who you will be traveling with.

Back Country Travel
In addition everyone traveling in the back country should:
  • Carry a probe, collapsible shovel and basic emergency equipment
  • Know the current weather and snow conditions
  • Ski spread out, one at a time, not grouped together
  • Take an avalanche awareness course before they go out
  • Wear an avalanche beacon that they have practiced with
It takes time for help to reach the mountains so the members of a party are the only people close enough to reach an avalanche victim in those first few golden minutes.

Helpful Weather Resources