WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. — A group of snowmobilers from Minnesota was rescued near Yellowstone after becoming lost in blizzard like conditions.
West Yellowstone Police dispatchers received a non-emergency call Sunday just before 2:30 p.m. from a rider who said his group of three was having trouble finding a trail due to increasingly windy and snowy conditions. The dispatcher told them to call 911 so authorities could get a more precise location based on cell phone GPS. The signal indicated the snowmobilers were in the area of Horse Butte, about 10 miles north of West Yellowstone.
The snowmobilers told Gallatin Count dispatchers they would hang tight and wait for the weather to break. Just before 6:30 p.m. the snowmobilers called 911 a second time, saying they were still unable to locate the trail system, were becoming cold and were concerned they would become even more lost if they attempted to ride their way out.
Gallatin County Undersheriff Dan Springer said the snowmobilers did exactly what they should have with a ground blizzard in full effect. "You can't tell up or down, east or west, ground temps dropping to 8 or 10 below," he said.
Due to white-out conditions and plunging temps sheriff's officials made the decision to deploy a rescue team to find the lost snowmobilers. As the team was on their way to help the Minnesota contingent rescuers encountered a second group of riders that were stuck and lost. The rescue team dug out the second group, located the Minnesota riders and led both safely back to West Yellowstone.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin is using the incident to remind snowmobilers that weather plays a significant part in the outcome of outdoor adventures. Wind accompanied by heavy snow can create ground blizzard conditions, making it nearly impossible to find your way and increasing the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
Goorkin also says the story points out the importance of having a reliable communication device should you run into trouble.