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SAR: Dangerous snowmobile conditions, even for pros, causing more crashes this year

Posted: 10:33 AM, Feb 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-03 12:36:02-05

GALLATIN COUNTY, Mont. – Rescuers in Gallatin County had a busy Friday and Saturday helping out more injured snowmobilers in a season that has presented especially challenging terrain and conditions.

Photo courtesy of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said in a media release that this year’s conditions have been “challenging even for experienced riders with quality machines.”

Such was the case Saturday when a 36-year-old Bozeman man launched his snowmobile off a trail and injured his back 1.5 miles up Buck Ridge, south of Big Sky. Gallatin County Dispatch received the call around 3 p.m. Saturday.

Two Canyon Adventure snowmobile guides located the man and reported his location and condition to rescuers.

Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue at Big Sky responded and used an ambulance sled pulled by a Bearcat Arctic Cat snowmobile to transport him to a waiting Big Sky Fire Department ambulance.  He was taken to Big Sky Medical Center around 4:15 p.m.

On Friday morning, rescuers responded to two incidents that occurred barely two hours apart in West Yellowstone.

At 9:35 a.m., Search and Rescue responded to help a 28-year-old Massachusetts man who fell off his snowmobile, injuring his ankle, when he crossed a rough patch on a groomed trail.

Then a little after 11 a.m. Friday, West Yellowstone Police Department Dispatch received a 911 call reporting another snowmobile accident on the Two Top Trail. A 72-year-old woman from Alabama was thrown and broke her arm when the snowmobile she was riding as a passenger hit a rut in the groomed trail.

Both snowmobilers were transported in a specialized rescue sled to waiting ambulances and taken to Big Sky Medical Center for further evaluation and treatment.

Sheriff Gootkin said with this year’s conditions, even groomed trails can become dangerous.

“Country that would normally be ridden has turned into a terrain trap and avalanche conditions are considerable,” he said. “Evaluate the terrain and your skill level with fresh eyes this season.  Search and Rescue is ready if you have a bad day, but it is always best to not have to meet us in the first place.”

Sheriff Gootkin also reminds the public to always ride with a partner and carry a reliable means of communication in case of an emergency.