Here’s why you should stop entering Colorado’s backcountry

Interstate 70 through the snowy mountains (1-70). Photo Credit: Mark Alexander (iStock).

If there’s one thing Colorado is internationally known for, it’s incredible ski terrain. Home to a number of world-class resorts, people travel from around the globe to make turns at spots like Vail, Winter Park, and Telluride. However, if you start asking locals, some will say you’re better off earning turns in the backcountry. Unfortunately, amid the COVID-19 crisis, that’s no longer the case.

Though missing out on spring skiing due to a resort shutdown is undoubtedly a bummer for beginners and experts, alike, it is advised that all people stop entering the backcountry for recreation and exercise.

Here’s why:

The Strain on First Responders

When you enter the backcountry, you’re taking on a risk. In a spot where cell service is limited and access is no simple task, a single mistake can be deadly. Add to that the inherent risk of an extreme sport, like skiing, and it’s easy to see how things can get dangerous when something goes wrong.

Thankfully, search and rescue teams around the state are hard at work year-round, rescuing those that need assistance in Colorado’s vast span of natural space. Unfortunately, during the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, resources are stretched and accidents can stretch them even more.

For example, consider last week when more than three dozen responders were called to a backcountry snowboarding accident near Ophir, Colorado. The strain put on the small town search and rescue network prompted a harsh response from local law enforcement.

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters urged caution, stating that “especially in light of COVID-19 when our local resources are stretched and incidents like this stretch them even more. People need to use their friggin’ heads.”

It’s also important to consider that the strain will likely delay search and rescue response times.

The Strain on Medical Services

Partaking in risky behavior during a time when medical resources and services are limited is discouraged. Any injury that can be prevented should be prevented in attempt to reduce the strain on already stretched resources and staff. If someone is taking up a spot in urgent care due to a skiing injury, this could be taking a potentially life-saving spot away from a COVID-19 patient.

The Spread of COVID-19

As one travels to and from a backcountry spot, they’re likely passing through and spending money in a number of small towns along the way. While this is typically encouraged, in the age of COVID-19, that’s often not the case. Many of these small towns are asking tourists (and their germs) to stay away, including one town that implemented a ‘locals only’ policy. Keep in mind that these small towns aren’t likely to have the medical infrastructure that might be needed amid an outbreak.

It’s also worth noting that Denver’s stay-at-home order means not going to neighboring communities or mountain towns for recreation for this reason and strain on medical resources.

The Strain on Emergency Travel

While Colorado’s roads are often clear, winter weather can linger long into the spring. Traveling on roads in search of a pow day contribute to additional traffic during a time when accidents are likely to occur. Accidents can block roadways and cause delays, two things that can be detrimental to transporting COVID-19 patients in a timely manner. Don’t add to the problem by traveling when road conditions may already be limiting to first responders and medical staff.

RELATED: Click here for tips on safe recreation during COVID-19



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