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ASHLAND, Ore. – As the winter recreation season begins, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) search and rescue (SAR) officials are sharing tips to stay safe in the snow.  SAR personnel are gearing up to help when needed, but they urge people to do their part to prevent emergencies from happening in the first place.

JCSO Sergeant Shawn Richards says before heading out, it’s important to tell someone exactly where you are going and when to expect you back.  He also urges people to be prepared, even for short trips.

“Whether you’re hunting for a Christmas tree or enjoying a day on the mountain, you need to take along adequate food, water, clothing, and gear,” said Sergeant Richards.  “That also means having a plan for what you will do if you get stuck or lost.”

Skiers and snowboarders are reminded of the dangers of crossing into the backcountry – a practice that tends to get people into trouble every year on Mount Ashland.  Sergeant Richards says it shouldn’t be attempted by those without experience.  Even so, skiers should keep in mind that the area beyond the Mount Ashland Ski Area boundary is not patrolled, there is no cell phone service, and rescuers probably won’t arrive quickly.

“When SAR or Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol are called upon to look for someone, it takes time to organize resources and start tracking someone down,” said Richards. “And that’s a best-case scenario. If nobody knows where you are or when to expect you back, it may take a long time for someone to report you missing and start the search process.”

Two JCSO SAR emergency shelters are placed on Mount Ashland where lost skiers have ended up in the past.  A shelter on the east side of the mountain has been restocked with emergency gear.  New this year, a second shelter was added to the south side of the mountain, in the Cottonwood drainage off US Forest Service Road 40S06.

While the purpose of the shelters is to save lives, Sergeant Richards reminds people that the shelters are for emergencies only.  People should plan ahead to be self-sufficient when heading outdoors, especially in the backcountry.