Search and Rescue issues warning after Idaho Falls snowmobilers rescued

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ISLAND PARK — Two Idaho Falls snowmobilers were rescued by search and rescue teams this weekend after they became lost near Keg Springs, west of Island Park.

The two men arrived to snowmobile in the area around midday on Friday, Dec. 18. Just before 7 p.m., the men called 911, and Fremont County Sheriff’s Dispatch was able to retrieve their GPS coordinates. Some 22 volunteers with Fremont County Search and Rescue responded to help the lost men, Search and Rescue Cmdr. Brett Mackert said.

“They called 911, because they were unable to find their way back to their vehicle,” Mackert said. “This was partially due to conditions — the depth of the snow, heavy fog and high winds causing blowing and drifting snow.”

Rescuers experienced extremely difficult travel conditions. They had to dig stuck sleds out several times while trying to get to the men, according to a news release.

Searchers told the stranded men to start a snowmobile and turn its headlight on. One search team could dimly see their light from under the low clouds, but due to steep terrain the crews were unable to make contact with the stranded from where they were.

At 2:25 a.m. Saturday morning, a Fremont County Search and Rescue member was able to meet up with the men. They were assessed on the mountain, and emergency crews determined medical attention was not necessary.

The search team and the two lost snowmobilers made their way across the steep terrain for over an hour. Everyone arrived at base camp safely. Officials said the last search members arrived home at 5:45 a.m.

This was the first rescue of the season for Fremont County Search and Rescue.

A second incident of a lost snowmobiler was reported late Sunday, Dec. 20, close to Two Top Mountain near West Yellowstone, but the call was ultimately cancelled.

“We were en route, but before we got there, they were able to get themselves out of the situation and call 911 to get a stop,” Mackert said.

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Typically, Search and Rescue performs about 20 recoveries in and around Fremont and Clark counties. The most they’ve ever done is 68 rescues during one season, Mackert said.

Authorities advise riding conditions are poor and hazardous right now. In many areas the snowpack is not safe for backcountry snowmobiling, typically on any slopes with angles between 25 and 50 degrees, according to a news release. Mackert said avalanche conditions are considerably high right now and even extreme in some areas.

“If you and your riding partners have never taken an avalanche safety course, have not spent the money to purchase transceivers, probes, shovels, and inflatable avalanche bags, and have not taken the time to become experienced with this equipment in mock burial situations, you shouldn’t be riding on any of the mountains in the backcountry,” Mackert said in a news release.

To check avalanche conditions, check these sites: www.mtavalanche.com/current and www.jhavalanche.org/viewTeton.

Photos courtesy Shutterstock.

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