Tips to survive winter recreation

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. Bitter cold weather can sometimes put people in danger when out enjoying the wilderness. A Nevada family that survived two days in the cold has prompted officials to give some advice on what locals can do to avoid it all together.

Operations Chief for the Mesa County Search & Rescue, Bill Thomas, said "That guy could be my new hero of the year... the adult male from the news report did some great things."

Thomas said what the man did saved his family's lives. "First of all he kept everybody calm, they stayed with the vehicle," said Thomas. He also said, "Typically, it's the person that goes for help is the one that doesn't survive."

The biggest advice Thomas can give is always tell someone where you're going, what time you'll be back and to never go alone. In Mesa County, Thomas said most winter search and rescue missions take place in the Colorado River or on the Grand Mesa. He said it's common for snow mobilers to get stuck or to break down. "There are avalanche danger areas up on the mesa and we've had avalanche fatalities in Mesa County," said Thomas.

However, there are some things people should keep in mind when recreating in the winter. Thomas said, "There's an old saying in mountaineering 'cotton kill's' because cotton holds water. If you even sweat in cotton, and get that cotton wet, you can get hypothermia quite easily."

Scout Master for the Boy Scouts, Lewis Melchor said, "Fire is your friend. If you can build a fire, you not only have a companion, but you have solitude."

Last year, Mesa County Search and Rescue completed 12 missions from October to December. So far in that same period this year, they've done 8. Thomas hopes people will ask for help if they need it. "There's no charge for search and rescue so just call us when you need us," he said.

Thomas also suggests always keeping enough clothes and items like a cell phone and food to survive for 48 hours. That's typically, enough time for search and rescue to find you.

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