The need for search and rescue is a year-round demand in Zion National Park. Recently, the park has seen an increase in search and rescue missions in winter months. Many of those rescues require the use of snowmobiles, particularly in the higher elevation and snow-covered Kolob Terrace sections of the park. To accommodate this need, Zion is seeking funding to replace the aging snowmobiles ensuring that the park can continue to meet the increasing demand winter weather has on the SAR team.
Measures have been taken to reduce the risk of a SAR incident, with large portions of the Kolob Terrace Road closed to wheeled vehicles after significant snowfall. Despite this, the number of visitors who utilize this section of the park in the winter is increasing. Moreover, winter search and rescue operations that occur in the park’s higher elevation regions on the east side as well as in the Alpine areas of Cedar Breaks National Monument have also seen an increase in incidents.
Zion’s current fleet is inadequate to meet the increased SAR demands. For safety, two snowmobiles are needed for search and rescue operations that require the use of snowmobiles. The park has one operational machine purchased by the Zion Forever Project in 2019. The other snowmobiles are much older, need massive repairs, and are destined for the scrap yard. Acquiring two new machines would ensure Zion’s staff can maintain the two-rescuer response and allow for continued safety should one of the snowmobiles require maintenance.
The SAR team has done extensive research on which snowmobile will be most cost-effective and suitable for the terrain to best meet its search-and-rescue needs. They are seeking funding for two Ski-Doo Backcountry Sport model snowmobiles, which are exceptionally lightweight relative to their power output. This model‘s swappable seats and adjustable handles make it optimal to fit any situation, including attaching rescue sleds to haul both people and gear, ensuring the operations are safer for both the rangers and injured hikers. Zion Visitor and Resource Protection have already budgeted for upkeep and scheduled maintenance for its snowmobile fleet. Once acquired, the snowmobiles will be well maintained.
With your help, the park will use this equipment to enhance visitor safety and improve the Zion experience.