Grateful for search-and-rescue teams

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A couple of close calls in the backcountry last weekend have us singing the praises of our local search-and-rescue outfits.

On Sunday, Flathead Search and Rescue sent a ground crew to search for a backcountry skier missing near Blacktail Mountain. Volunteers luckily were able to locate the man’s tracks before darkness — and frigid overnight temperatures — set in. Ultimately, Two Bear Air found the skier in a creek bottom, where he had started a fire, and he was hoisted to safety unscathed.

But the night was just getting started for our search-and-rescue crews.

Later that evening another call came in for a group of snowmobilers who were overdue from a ride up the South Fork of the Flathead River.

North Valley Search and Rescue set out in the dark, and later Two Bear Air located the men using night-vision technology. High winds and a low ceiling made an aerial rescue too dangerous, so ground crews helped bring the men out. They finally made it to safety at 3 a.m.

Conditions were raw Sunday night. Without our dedicated, well-trained search-and-rescue volunteers, these near-misses could have quickly ended up much worse.

Let’s also allow these close calls to serve as a reminder to always be prepared when headed into the backcountry. Thankfully the solo skier had a fire-starter kit on hand to stay warm until help arrived.

It’s also prudent to carry a first-aid kit, repair kit, headlamp, and extra clothes, food and water. Make sure the cellphone battery is charged up, carry avalanche gear if traveling in mountainous terrain, and have a map and know how to use it. Before leaving the house, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive home.

The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce touted the city’s downtown development incentives at its monthly lunch meeting this week, and it was encouraging to hear three speakers detail new and emerging incentives to attract more business to the downtown corridor.

The city’s tax increment finance districts have been doing their part to beef up urban renewal, and an Opportunity Zone around downtown Kalispell created as part of the federal 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will take underutilized properties in that area and make them attractive to investors.

We’ve said it before that these are exciting times for the heart of Kalispell. With the anticipated trail system planned on the railroad bed once the tracks are pulled out, coupled with development incentives, we look forward to the future of the downtown area.

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