Back country adventure in Southern Oregon risky this time of year

Outdoor enthusiasts venturing up to Mt. Ashland for some post-season powder are cautioned that the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol is not available for rescue assistance in an emergency, now that the ski park officially closed for the season Sunday.

The Ashland Ranger Station and the Mt. Ashland Ski Park want to remind skiers, snowmobilers and climbers that avalanche season is still in play and in case of emergencies, they must call the Jackson County Search and Rescue team.

Mike Dadaos, Marketing and Events Manager for Mt. Ashland, said that due to the end of the season for the Ski Patrol, and the number of people who will continue to ski the back country at Mt. Ashland, proper precautions must be taken.

"When Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol is closed we don't know what's going on in the back country," Dadaos said. "Make sure and tell other people where you're going and when you're expected to return."

Dadaos advises post-season skiers to always bring someone with them, as well as a cell phone and radio. It is also best to bring along a probe, a light weight shovel and a transceiver which can be used to track down a fallen skier.

Steve Johnson, recreation specialist for the Ashland Ranger station, cautions skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers of specific dangers in the snowpack between the time the ski park has closed and when the snow melts.

"During regular season, ski patrol regularly conducts avalanche tactics for controlling avalanches," Johnson said.

Those trekking up to Mt. Ashland now are entering an area that Johnson calls the "back country." Johnson advises those who go to "know when they are entering or coming near avalanche terrain and to have some education about avalanches."

During the regular season, Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol provides all skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers a rescue system known as RECCO which pinpoints the exact location of a fallen or buried skier. A team of avalanche-trained dogs is also available in case of emergency.

Johnson advised that it is best to stay on the trail in the back country, far away from avalanche territory.

"If people are staying on the nordic ski trail, you do not have to worry about avalanches because none of the trails themselves are avalanche terrain," Johnson said.

Johnson explained what nordic skiers may want to look for when on the mountain.

"If you venture off the trail, then in many cases you will be entering avalanche terrain," Johnson said.

Johnson recommends skiers educate themselves and others about the dangers of avalanches and specifically how to identify avalanche terrain.

"Web sites are a good place to begin education but there's no substitute for attending a class by avalanche professionals," Johnson said.

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche center, currently closed for the season, hosts free avalanche information sessions in November and through the winter months that educate on avalanche preparation and safety measures.

For regional informational on avalanches and avalanche safety, go online at .

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