Flagstaff, AZ – On February 3, 2019 at approximately 5:00 PM the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit responded to a report of an overdue skier who had left the ski area boundary at Arizona Snowbowl and entered the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. The skier, a 16-year-old male from Flagstaff, became separated from his group and the rest of the group returned to the Arizona Snowbowl where they made the report to the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Patrol. The skier was reported to be equipped with only his skis and cell phone and no other survival equipment. At the time the report was made, it appeared that the skier’s cell phone had been powered off or had run out of battery.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit along with the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Patrol initiated an investigation and search for the skier. At approximately 5:45 PM the Sheriff’s Office located the skier on Snowbowl Road at approximately milepost 3. The skier was uninjured and was provided a ride to the Agassiz Lodge to be reunited with his family and friends. While this situation turned out well, it had the potential to be a dangerous situation for the skier.

This incident was the third lost out of bounds skier / snowboarder call received by either the Sheriff’s Office or the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Patrol on Sunday. With the recent snowfall and the expected heavy snow through mid-week, it is expected that more skiers and snowboarders may elect to ski out of bounds. Skiing or snowboarding outside of the ski area boundary carries with it some risk. The area outside of the Arizona Snowbowl boundary is not patrolled and avalanche mitigation is not conducted in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. Most skiers and snowboarders who leave the ski area boundary intend to return to the ski area, but terrain tends to force them to the south and away from the ski area.

Those who recreate outside of the Arizona Snowbowl boundary should carry the following equipment; extra food and water, extra warm clothing, navigation equipment (map, compass, and GPS), headlamp, first aid kit, shelter material (large leaf bag or space blanket), fire starting kit or backpacking stove, pocket knife/multi-tool, whistle, avalanche beacon, avalanche probe, backcountry shovel, and a cell phone with a back-up battery pack.

Wilderness users should also avoid traveling alone. Education about the winter backcountry hazards including avalanche should be sought out. Avalanches often occur within 24 hours of a storm and heavy snowfall amounts over a short period of time, high winds which deposit snow in starting zones, or signs of instability in the snowpack warrant concern in the backcountry.

The Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center offers weekly snowpack summaries that highlight the hazards in the snowpack as well as offer educational classes about avalanche. More information about the snowpack summary and courses available can be found at www.kachinapeaks.org. A free Kachina Peaks Winter Backcountry Permit is required for backcountry travel in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness when accessing the Wilderness from Arizona Snowbowl and along the Snowbowl Road at Viet Spring and Friedlein Prairie Road. The permit can be obtained from the U.S. Forest Service and more information about the permit can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coconino/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fseprd479744