This is the time of year when the Colorado Tourism Office’s (CTO) is normally focused on attracting skiers to Colorado’s ski resorts. This year, with an uncertain number of in-bounds skiers and a heightened concern for the safety of inexperienced backcountry travelers, the CTO has pivoted its messaging to promote winter backcountry safety. A collaboration between CTO, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the CSAR, and many others has culminated in a preventative search and rescue campaign that should be hard to ignore. The four-month campaign begins this week with a proclamation from Governor Polis’s office naming December 7 – 13 as Colorado Backcountry Safety Awareness week.
Campaign themes will include choosing wise destinations, avoiding activities beyond one’s skill level, caring for Colorado by leaving wildlife wild and packing out trash, checking the weather and avalanche forecasts, and carrying the right safety gear. One aspect of the goal is to get backcountry recreationists to sign a three-part safety pledge that asks people to Know Before You Go, Recreate Responsibly and Care for Colorado.
A new winter backcountry safety microsite on Colorado.com is filled with resources, including a listing of both online and in-person safety classes and a directory of guides and outfitters for virtually any backcountry sport or activity. In a year when many of our member teams have been overwhelmed with record numbers of calls, the site also includes a call for donations to CSAR.
CSAR president Jeff Sparhawk comments, “In this year of COVID, it is great that so many people are rediscovering Colorado’s backcountry. However, the search and rescue teams across Colorado need your help. Please work to keep all backcountry enthusiasts safe by acting responsibly and adhering to the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge. With your help and the support of our partners, Colorado’s SAR teams will be there for you.”