Everyone here at San Juan Untracked is dedicated to providing the ultimate snowcat skiing and boarding adventure as safely as possible.
For the most part, our clients will never see all the work and thought that goes into the safety program of the largest snowcat operation in Colorado, but we encourage you to educate yourself regarding the risks associated with backcountry skiing and riding along with what can be done to mitigate and lessen these risks. We are proud of our staff’s qualifications, as well as the expertise and experience they bring to make your day a great one.
Managing risk in a backcountry tour operation involves identifying potential hazards on any given day and avoiding or mitigating them. The primary focus of risk management in backcountry skiing and riding is terrain selection. The selection of terrain is made on a daily basis and is the result of a consideration and evaluation of several factors including, but not limited to, avalanche potential, weather, snow conditions and the clientele’s level of skiing and riding proficiency.
The following are some of the key safety issues, as well as standards and protocols that define our operating procedures.
All of our guides are professionally accredited and certified. All have a lifelong dedication to their profession and are trained in medical first-aid, avalanche training and alpine rescue. While in the field, all guides carry radios and are in constant communication with other guides, the snowcat drivers and Durango Mountain Resort’s ski patrol dispatch.
Beyond this, our guides are chosen based on their years of experience specifically related to backcountry skiing and their unique personalities. We require all of our guides to continuously upgrade their professional skills. All personnel are provided with annual refresher classes and training in the use of radios and communications, terrain evaluation, winter emergency care and rescue operations.
San Juan Untracked maintains several snow-study plots, which are monitored throughout the season. In addition, the guides record daily field observations, and diligently track weather details and snowfall data. This data is shared during the guides’ twice-daily meetings. Each and every day, the snow stability forecast and avalanche hazard rating is prepared in the morning, along with a snow stability evaluation during the day followed by further appraisal in the evening. The terrain and runs we choose to ski and ride are designed to minimize exposure to any potential risks based on these tools.
We are a member of the American Avalanche Association (AAA). We also participate in a daily information exchange of avalanche hazard and weather information from other operators and agencies involved in avalanche forecasting and control in the San Juan Mountains.
Route finding and run selection provides the guides with an opportunity to avoid hazards either recognized in the morning forecast or encountered throughout the course of the day. Our widely varied terrain and topography offers critical study along with numerous safe skiing and riding options. The greater the variety of terrain (aspect, slope angle, elevation, treed versus open slopes) available to the operation, the easier it is to manage the inherent and ever-changing risks. When the avalanche hazard rating for the day is high, lower-angled terrain and more heavily treed areas are chosen. Fortunately, we operate in a large area with a multitude of safe and fun skiing and boarding options for perfect lines and untracked powder.
Our snowcats and guides carry a carefully prescribed list of medical and rescue gear in case of emergencies. However, in case of urgent and serious injury or illness, we have a mutual response agreement with Durango Mountain Resort’s Ski Patrol team.