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Flagstaff, AZ - The
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is warning backcountry mountain travelers to
be alert for potential avalanche hazards on the San Francisco Peaks. The
existing snowpack, recent wind events, and a large amount of new snow could
produce hazardous conditions in the backcountry. This includes the side country
bordering the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area.
Avalanche mitigation and patrolling is conducted
within the Arizona Snowbowl, but there is no avalanche control or routine
patrolling in the forest outside of the Snowbowl. Those traveling into the
backcountry need to be prepared for and understand the conditions prior to
venturing out. Avalanches most commonly occur during a storm or within 24 hours
of the storm ending, however unstable conditions may persist long beyond that
timeframe. Backcountry travelers need to understand the conditions and the
warning signs of avalanche activity.
People venturing into mountainous terrain should
carry avalanche rescue equipment such as a shovel, avalanche transceiver, avalanche
probe, and winter survival gear. Good wilderness navigation and route finding
skills are essential. Be prepared for travel and emergencies in the
remote winter mountain environment where rescue is not immediate. Do not
travel alone and leave a detailed trip plan with a responsible person. It
is important to review recent weather reports and forecasts as well as driving
conditions prior to and during your trip. Carrying a cell phone is
recommended; however, it may not always work in backcountry locations and
should not substitute for good judgment and preparation.
Backcountry users can obtain Snowpack Summary which
outlines possible snowpack hazards from the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center at www.kachinapeaks.org.
Observations by other backcountry travelers are also posted on the site.
Natural avalanche activity had been reported on the San Francisco Peaks prior
to this current storm. In addition to snow observations the Kachina Peaks
Avalanche Center provides educational materials on the website as well as
sponsoring Introduction to Avalanche seminars and more in-depth avalanche field
Winter backcountry travel into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area from
Arizona Snowbowl and Snowbowl Road requires a free annual backcountry
permit. This includes the parking areas at FR 522 and Lamar Haines
Wildlife Area. Backcountry permits are available in Flagstaff at the
Peaks Ranger Station, 5075 N. Highway 89, and the Coconino National Forest
Supervisor’s Office, 1824 S Thompson St. Permits will also be available
at Arizona Snowbowl’s Agassiz Lodge weekend mornings when the ski area is open.
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