It's a ritual you can count on. Every fall the temperatures drop and ice appears. Every year, highway officials, law enforcement officers and the U.S. Forest Service warn people about the pitfalls of moving about in the wintertime.
And every year, accidents occur on icy highways and in avalanche areas.
Do all the warnings also preserve lives by alerting the public to dangers? We believe they do. Which is why we urge readers to take note that the Utah Avalanche Center is concerned about the snow slide at the Alta Ski Area over the weekend. It was the earliest incident in 20 years, and officials are concerned because not only are ski resorts not open, but the seasonal volunteers at the center have not yet started work.
And though no one was caught in the slide, now is a good time for Utahns to reflect on a few facts. Utah ranks third in the nation for outdoor activity. More than 80 percent of the state's residents enjoy the outdoors. Avalanche deaths, alas, are not unusual here.
And the early snow should set off caution lights in the minds of local hikers, skiers and all others who will be moving about. Parents should begin cautioning their children about walking in the snow and ice. Drivers should winterize their cars and start reminding themselves to slow down. Older Utahns should make sure they will be warm this winter. Accommodations for pets should be made. And neighbors should begin watching for ways to help others.
For, in the end, readying for winter requires more than physical preparation, it demands mental preparation. And though it's only October, if you're headed into the outback make sure people know where you're going, carry a cell phone and plan your route and your activities beforehand. Know your limits. And carry a digging tool.
We can count how many lives are lost each year due to recklessness in winter conditions. What can't be counted are the number of lives preserved because people actually took the time to prepare and think things through before heading out.
Number your life among the uncounted ones.
Winter has arrived at the party a little early this year. Don't be caught scrambling around to get things ready. Get up to speed now — and make it a thoughtful, cautious speed.