Backcountry skier. Photo Credit: Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

Mike Miller of Colorado Springs skis into the Little Italy chute above Glen Cove on Pikes Peak. Below is the Pikes Peak Highway and the Glen Cove parking lot. Photo Credit: Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

Planning on exploring Colorado's backcountry this winter? Then it's time to take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge, committing to three principles: Know Before You Go, Recreate Responsibly, and Care for Colorado.

Governor Jared Polis has made Monday, December 7 through Sunday, December 13, 2020 “Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week," kicking off a winter-long campaign to not only keep backcountry users safe, but lessen the strain on search and rescue teams around the state. 

With a surge of new skiers and riders in the backcountry this winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, search and rescue teams are being stretched thin as they respond to more incidents. 

“All of us were seeing signs of a surge of interest in winter outdoor experiences, whether backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or fat biking," stated CTO Director Cathy Ritter. “With so many people trying outdoor experiences for the first time these days, we saw an important opportunity to help backcountry newcomers get on the right path to stay safe and reduce their impacts.”

The backcountry safety campaign is aimed at encouraging all backcountry users to get proper safety gear and training, to raise funds for search and rescue, to encourage people to seek guidance from experienced friends and mentors, and to encourage people to take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge. 

The effort is a collaboration between Colorado Search and Rescue and a handful of state organizations including the Colorado Tourism Office, Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado Parks, and Wildlife, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Colorado Search & Rescue conducted 2,875 missions through the state in 2019, logging over 353,600 hours of volunteer service.

To take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge, please visit Colorado.com/BackcountryPledge. To learn more about Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week, please visit Colorado.com/WinterBackcountrySafety.

The winter season will officially start on December 21.

Editor's Note: Be aware, get prepared! It's avalanche season in Colorado. Before recreating in the backcountry, always check the forecast with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.

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