BOZEMAN — Gallatin County Sheriff's Search and Rescue (SAR) held an avalanche rescue training event on Sunday at the Bridger Bowl Ski Resort.
Last year, the team responded to one avalanche down in Big Sky and, like always, prepared for the worst winter weather and hoped for the best. Preparation and execution are two main components of a successful rescue.
Captain Scott Secor with the SAR team was an overseer at the event to ensure all of the moving parts were executed properly.
Unlike in years past, this year the entire team — including LifeFlight helicopters, skiers, the comm team, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office — participated in a scenario including four victim scenarios.
The scenarios included a victim with a head injury, a victim in need to travel via helicopter to a neighboring hospital, and more.
“This year, we just said, ‘let’s get together in one big exercise and make sure everybody’s on the same page.' We can stop something if something goes wrong and retrain it,” Secor said.
About 20 volunteers came to the training. Some went into the Incident Management Truck to oversee communications, while others strapped up their ski boots and readied themselves to be airlifted to the victims’ location.
“They’re dynamic,” Richard Gauron said, “Live to ride another day, there’s always tomorrow and we live in a beautiful place and our seasons are long.”
Gauron is the SAR Valley Section Manager and has worked with the team for 11 years. He explained the complexity of the situation and the probability of a second wave when one avalanche occurs.
Gauron says time is precious with any rescue, and especially in an avalanche rescue. Having the capability to fly two skiers to a location in a couple of minutes, instead of snowmobiling, saves lives.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
The team all met when the event concluded and team leaders reviewed their performance and discussed how communication could improve and other factors could be more efficient.
It was a successful day, with rescues typically occurring within a 20 to 30-minute time frame. The next step for the team is continuous reps and readiness when a real call comes.