PITKIN COUNTY SNOWFIGHTERS LEARN AVALANCHE BASICS
Snowplow Drivers Work in Avalanche Prone Valleys
The Pitkin County Road and Bridge Department is receiving basic avalanche training from Mountain Rescue Aspen so that they are better prepared to protect themselves and the public should an avalanche occur while they’re plowing a county road. The training program is in its 5th year in Pitkin County and many drivers have received multiple trainings and refresher courses from volunteer trainers from Mountain Rescue Aspen.
Pitkin County is responsible for snow removal and maintenance along 254 miles of roads and bridges in Pitkin County and the Frying Pan Road in Eagle County. Avalanches can and do occur along their routes during heavy snow years that can pose a hazard to plow drivers and the public.
“The Castle Creek Valley to Ashcroft has a few avalanche paths that are notorious for sliding all the way down to the road during big snow years,” said Pitkin County Road and Bridge Superintendent, Scott Mattice. “We want our drivers to be able to self-rescue and be equipped to help anyone they might come across while they’re plowing that needs help,” Mattice said.
Other county roadways that can see avalanche activity include Midnight Mine, Little Annie Road and the Eagle and Pitkin County portions of Frying Pan Road.
“It’s my belief that everyone who lives and plays in a mountain environment should be trained in avalanche safety,” said Mattice. “It’s not much different from expecting people who live and play in ocean environments to know the basics of swimming and what to do in a riptide.”
Pitkin County Road and Bridge is currently conducting a public outreach campaign reminding the public to give snowplows ample space to do their jobs on roadways. It is recommended that drivers take extreme caution when following or passing a snowplow since plow drivers’ attention is focused on the snow they’re moving and not other vehicles attempting to pass them. The public is also reminded that pushing snow off of private property into a right-of-way can be dangerous for traffic and is against the law.