By Laura Haefeli

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Travelers are heading to the great outdoors for lockdown relief and putting a strain on local search and rescue agencies, which are warning visitors to be cautious.

“These backcountry areas are relentless,” Greg Almos said.

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Almos is a deputy with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. He says with a rise in risk-takers traveling to ski untouched terrain, the El Dorado County’s Search & Rescue team has their gloves are full.

“With a lot of the stay-at-home orders with permissibility for travel, we’re seeing a lot more of that inexperienced, unskilled, adventurous,” Almos said.

The county’s Search and Rescue team has two veteran volunteers, Mark Carlisle and Rita Mustatia, who showed our crews some of their rescue techniques.

“So this is telling me that there’s somebody buried out there, that arrow will point in the direction I want to go. I’m just getting out the tools I’m going to need to unbury him. That search mode has to go fast,” Carlisle said.

He says one of the biggest backcountry dangers is an avalanche.

“Everybody wants the fresh pow. Hey, it just snowed but that’s probably the worst time to go,” Mustatia said.

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“After an avalanche that snow could be like cement. You’re not going to be able to breathe. After 15 minutes, chances of survival start diminishing,” Carlisle said.

Search & Rescue El Dorado County has a ton of equipment they can use to help with rescues, like UTV’s, snowmobiles, and snowcats, but they don’t want to have to use the equipment.

“The 911 call comes in unfortunately if it’s simply just not safe enough for us to go and rescue you then, you’re going to have to survive until it’s safe for us to go,” Mustatia said.

Whether it’s ski’s snowshoes or sledding, here’s how to stay safe during your winter adventures:

  • Have a plan
  • Tell someone where you’re going
  • Wear weather-appropriate clothing
  • Bring safety equipment

“Making decisions that are smart. Plan on going somewhere but also be ready to change your mind,” Mustatia said.

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El Dorado County’s Search & Rescue team was deployed 86 times in 2020, eight days into the new year, they had more rescues in 2021 than they saw this time last year.