Winter survival tactics class to be held

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula is a playground for outdoor adventure, but the extreme changes in weather in the area can leave even seasoned explorers in dangerous situations.

Michael Neiger and Todd Theoret of the Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue, the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division, and Marquette County Search and Rescue are hosting a free Winter Survival Tactics Class from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Chocolay Township Hall, located at 5010 U.S. 41 South.

Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt said the class will offer winter outdoor enthusiasts some simple tips that may help them survive if they find themselves in unforeseen circumstances.

“Within the last three years that I’ve been here, there’s been quite a few times where people have been killed, or succumb to the weather … because of the elements,” Zyburt said. “You know the winter is very attracting. They get out, they cross country ski, snowmobile, they ice fish and they — sometimes because of the extreme conditions up here — they get themselves in trouble. I thought it’d be a great idea to teach people some winter survival tips.”

All supplies and equipment needed for the class will be provided, but Zyburt noted that all the items can be purchased locally after the class at affordable rates. The tactics to be covered can mean the difference between life and death, he said.

“If you love the outdoors and you love doing things in the outdoors, it’s some small basic things that you can do that may save your life,” Zyburt said. “Even if we save one life, if we taught someone something about outdoor survival, then the class is worthwhile.”

Michael Neiger, a former Michigan State Police trooper and lead investigator for Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue, a long-range special operations group that investigates missing persons cases and unsolved homicides in the Great Lakes region and Canada’s Arctic Ocean, will also be leading the class.

“We’re going to cover a number of topics. First and foremost, we’re going to talk about people leaving a detailed itinerary behind with a responsible person that if they don’t return by a certain date and time, the party’s going to get ahold of search and rescue, because search and rescue can’t do anything for them unless they know they are missing. And the sooner they know they’re missing the better,” Neiger said.

Other topics to be covered include what to pack in your daypack; using maps, compasses and GPS units when lost; what clothing to wear and avoid when adventuring in the backcountry; how to use a cell phone more effectively in the woods; keeping children safe outside; and more.

“A lot of people go missing around the country and people go missing here in Marquette County or get into trouble,” Neiger said. “They run into cases where a little bit of practice, or preparation before people went into the wilderness would have made a big difference.”

He hopes the class will help people think ahead before venturing out into the woods.

“It’s tragic when people get into trouble in the woods and are overcome by it. And (in) Marquette County, we have a lot of different weather up here and our winters are very severe. A lot of people get in over their heads and don’t realize it,” Neiger said. “That’s why the sheriff and I have teamed up to see if we can do a little outreach, a little education. And get people to think ahead of time about what they’re doing and how to prepare for a problem in the woods during their activity, whether snowshoeing, or skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, hunting or bird hunting or whatever.”

All ages are welcome at the event, but children should be supervised. Survival skills coloring books will be given to families to take home.

The event is free and no registration is required. There are 60 seats available on a first-come basis.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.


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