What is Summit County Rescue Group?
Summit County Rescue Group, or SCRG, is a volunteer organization responsible for backcountry search and rescue activities in Summit County, Colorado. This responsibility has been delegated by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office to meet the Sheriff’s statutory responsibility for backcountry search and rescue. As the need arises, the team also assists in other counties across Colorado. Services are provided without charge.
SCRG is accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) and is a member of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR). SCRG was incorporated in 1973 as a 501(c)(3), non-profit, all-volunteer organization.
Isn’t Summit County Rescue Group part of ski patrol?
No. SCRG’s unpaid volunteers are available for search and rescue outside the ski area boundaries winter and summer, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Ski patrols in Summit County work for Vail Resorts (Keystone and Breckenridge), Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin. They are paid employees who conduct rescue activities only within the ski area boundaries, and only when the ski mountain is open. Ski patrol and SCRG teams do cooperate in areas adjacent to the ski resorts under the Sheriff’s authorization upon occasion, for instance when a skier gets lost or injured after crossing the ski area boundaries.
How big is SCRG?
There are about 60 - 70 active members at any one time, including:
- Six board members, who meet monthly to manage the administrative matters of the team, including training, equipment, medical resources and policy, public information and education, and finances
- Eleven mission coordinators, who rotate in an on-call role to coordinate initial calls for assistance, deploy needed resources, and manage the mission
- Team leaders, who act as leads for field team units
- Active members, who provide field team services
- Probationary members, who have completed our eight-week new member training program and are in their first year of team membership
All of these members, including the board of directors and the mission coordinators, are volunteers.
Why does SCRG emphasize training?
“We don’t rise to the occasion, we fall to our level of training”.
SCRG offers a comprehensive annual training program to its members for continuing skill development and refinement in order to promote safety, effectiveness and efficiency on missions.
When it comes to mountain rescue there is no one way to do things; mountain rescue can be complex and dynamic even on what is considered a “simple” mission. By recognizing this, and respecting that some specialist skillsets come from individual’s existing years of training, practice, experience and passions, SCRG’s training strategy seeks to arm its members with a toolkit of mission response options appropriate to their level of expertise, to recognize their own strengths and limitations, and to continually broaden the bench strength of the team in general.
By breaking down the skills components in the many specialities required for a mountain rescue team (including navigation, survival, basic search techniques, winter rescue and avalanche, water and ice rescue, technical rescue and motorized rescue response), SCRG strives to open up fun opportunities and bring the current evidence-based practices to challenge and develop team members’ existing skill levels and help them become the rescuers they want to be.
SCRG regularly provides in-house training using our own, and local, subject matter experts to practice the basic skills. Further skill development and continued refinement is provided via external instructors, courses and conferences to keep us on point for best practices and to offer elevated training opportunities to our experts and deep dives into the basics for our general team.
Most critically, continued team practice develops the critical thinking, team cohesiveness and leadership to take on whatever our next mission challenges will be.
What kind of work does SCRG perform?
SCRG provides search and rescue anywhere in Summit County that is off-road. Essentially, we go to work where the pavement ends. We rescue lost and injured hikers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, off-road vehicle users, climbers, paddlers, and hunters. We also respond to the occasional crashed paraglider and downed aircraft, and we’re responsible for body recovery in the backcountry.
Our members also provide many public education services, including backcountry safety presentations for schools, maintaining booths at ski area and town safety fairs, and delivering backcountry safety education on our social media channels.
Doesn’t a portion of my hunting or fishing license pay for search and rescue?
Yes, a portion of the revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and hiking (CORSAR) cards goes into a statewide fund for search and rescue. However, the fund can only be drawn on by a county sheriff to offset extraordinary search and rescue costs, not to maintain a search and rescue organization. The funds are primarily used to replace team and personal gear and equipment that is lost or damaged during a mission, and only if that particular rescue subject had a hunting or fishing license or CORSAR card.