Living in the Northland we talk about it, we joke about it, and we brag to our friends, family, and the occasional tourist about it; there really isn't a month that snow hasn't occurred in our area.  Even during the depths of the summer season - if the temperature turns cold enough during the night, the conditions can align to allow for precipitation to fall from the sky here as snow.

I think we're also used to seeing those late-season, slow-melting snow piles - usually in parking lots, covered with road salt, sand, and winter's grime.  Sometimes you'll see those piles well into the Memorial Day Weekend.

But usually, it's a little bit harder to find a clean, undisturbed snow pile left as the summer season begins its second half.

Enter the St. Louis County Rescue Squad.

As part of their regular training sessions, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad uses one of the tower pits located at the Soudan Mine on the Iron Range.  With pits as deep as 300 feet below the surface, ragged and rocky terrain, water, and other geographical challenges, the area is prime for the crew as they practice rescue exercises with "real world", unpredictable conditions.

I started following their adventures as they began early in the weekend on their Facebook page.  One of their posts offered a fantastic perspective of what the crews were doing - far below the surface:

According to the description on the Facebook post, this pit was last used around the turn of the last century; they detail that while the put itself had "opened in 1883", the mining operations had "shifted exclusively to underground operations" by 1902.  Essentially that means that the exposed earth and rock that you see in the photo has remained untouched (for the most part) since then. (i.e. it's not the easiest and the safest place to explore if you don't have the proper training or equipment)

Later, as the weekend of training continued, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad shared their discovery - untouched snow remaining from last winter.


According to the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, their discovery of unmelted snow in that pit isn't anything novel.  In fact, their post shared that they've discovered snow piles like this - around 250 to 300 feet down below the earth's surface - as late as September and October.

Along with the unmelted snow pile, the crew also discovered "abandoned steam drills left (from) over a century ago".

Established in 1958, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad is the group that "responds to calls involving wilderness search and rescue; boat and water safety; first aid; and public safety". In order to be ready, members of the squad train in specialized skills that are "above and beyond the basic search and rescue skills".

The organization is completely volunteer. And, the demands and commitments placed on them is worth mentioning.  As a group, the squad services a 7,000 square mile county "roughly the size of New Jersey".  Joining the groups is a commitment as each member is expected to "maintain a fully-stocked trauma kit in their personal vehicle and should be prepared to 'dress and go' in virtually any type of wilderness operation in any weather". It also means giving of their personal time from friends and family; even a job.

To get more information about the St. Louis County Rescue Squad and the vital service they provide our area, visit their website.

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