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Grand Targhee Resort has seen ample skier traffic since the hill was opened to uphill access on March 18.

Many Teton Valley residents have found solace in outdoor recreation while practicing social isolation. The parking lots at Grand Targhee, Teton Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, Teton Pass, and in Grand Teton National Park have been extremely crowded at times in the past week. First responders and other outdoor safety resources are cautioning backcountry users to recreate wisely.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center in its daily forecasts has often repeated this sentence: “With the current stress on our health care community, an extra margin of safety is warranted.”

Grand Targhee put out this reminder when uphill access opened at the ski hill:

“Travel is at your own risk and the ski area is considered ‘backcountry terrain.’ Potential hazards could include and are not limited to avalanches, heavy equipment pushing snow, over-snow vehicle traffic, road cuts, winch cables, and unmarked man-made, and natural hazards. There will be no first aid or rescue services available from the resort. In case of an emergency call 911. Motorized travel is not permitted on the mountain.”

Will Mook, who is a guide, motorized snow safety instructor, and Teton County Idaho Search and Rescue volunteer, provided some thoughts on staying responsible outside:

“Every person on this planet has a responsibility to help prevent this pandemic from spreading further. We must do our part and take this seriously so that we can return to a normal state of living (hopefully soon).

Many people who live in Teton Valley NEED the escape of the outdoors to stay sane. It’s our release from the world, where all we think about is living in the moment, and I think that is really healthy. When something like the stress of COVID-19 consumes so much of our brain power, worrying about the health of loved ones, ourselves, our jobs, etc, we need some way to block it out even if it’s just for an hour or two per day. For me, sledding is that outlet.

From what I’ve learned about social distancing, we can still get out and enjoy the outdoors. For sledders, we need to drive our own rigs. We need to be extra careful at the gas pumps and wash our hands/sanitize after filling up. We need to keep our distance from our riding partners (a great excuse to not go give your buddy a ski pull when they’re stuck!). We need to just be conscious of the ways in which we could contact or spread this virus.

When we’re out riding, we also need to do everything we can to not get hurt. Our hospitals and first responders are overwhelmed with keeping our community members safe from COVID-19. We don’t need to do anything to burden them, or distract them from this huge task they have at hand. When you’re thinking about sending a big line or hitting a big jump, don’t. Dial it back. Balance the day with riding hard enough to distract yourself from the stresses life, but not so hard that you’re elevating your risk of injury. It’s all about safety margins when we’re out there. Right now, whether on our sleds or not, we need very wide safety margins.”

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