We were approached last week to write a guest blog on avalanche awareness for our Friends at the angrysnowboarder.com. Check it out and stay safe out there.
The recent tragic death of a senior ski patroller at Wolf Creek Ski Area underscores the scary fact that no matter how much you know about avalanches, even skiing in-bounds, an avalanche could potentially kill you.
Around Colorado, it’s an absolute mind-bender to us that there aren’t more accidents, injuries and fatalities at the more popular sidecountry and backcountry stashes like Loveland Pass and Berthoud Pass.
There’s this guy we are afraid of. He’s stoked to be in the mountains and stoked to ride sickety gnar pow with his homies and his dawgs and it don’t cost nothing and there’s nobody in the woods to tell him what to do or where to go.
He’s heard about avalanches. But he’s seen the price of beacons and after buying a new board, goggles, gloves, and that killer new ganja stylee hoodie there’s barely enough money left for PBR.
He’s seen plenty of dudes outriding slides in movies. Some of his friends have been caught in em and escaped. He figures he knows what’s up with avalanches enough to get by and he’s okay with the chance that he’ll continue to be fine. He thinks avy safety talks are hype and that all the dudes with helmets and backpacks are show-off yuppie dorks.
You know the type. Willing to try anything. Always looking for the next cool thing. Reads all the best blogs. He’s probably reading this blog right now. He might even be you.
We’re pretty sure that on any given weekend at any number of easy-access backcountry ski destinations around the world, there are literally dozens of this archetype milling about with thumbs extended in the universal pedestrian hand sign for, “Ride, bro?”
No Beep, No Jeep
Several years ago we heard from a guy who would pull over to pick up hitchhikers. He’d jump out of his truck and walk back with his transceiver set to search and tell everyone, “No beep, no Jeep!” Those wearing beacons were given a lift.
It sounds like a silly way to make a point, but we think it’s effective in several ways. It raises awareness to the fact that in avalanche terrain, responsible users are prepared. It also, and more importantly, reinforces the concept of grassroots avalanche awareness and education—people teaching people.
Grassroots Avalanche Awareness and Education
Friends of Berthoud Pass is developing a model of grassroots avalanche awareness and education that puts avalanche awareness in everyone’s hands. Experienced volunteers teach newcomers the basics of safe travel in the backcountry. In turn those volunteers attend advanced training under the guidance of top educators in the field, on the understanding that they will come back to teach new instructors, and so on. In this way, our peer-based educational model loops back around and each new generation learns from their predecessors.
And get this… the program is offered free of charge. As far as we know there is no program like it in North America. (If there is a free avy awareness class with a full-day field component anywhere, we’d really like to hear about it.)
Basic awareness is the first step to creating a safe and responsible community of backcountry riders. Most of the responsible, experienced, well-informed skiers we know tend to avoid places where newbies congregate precisely because of the prevailing Circus of Ineptitude. This is unfortunate as it deprives newbies of good role models.
Fortunately some of those same role models are finding a voice through grassroots teaching with Friends of Berthoud Pass. They are dedicated to giving their time and expertise to create a community of safe backcountry users.
That’s why when we continue to see reckless, unprepared and ignorant behavior in the backcountry we can’t help but to shake our heads with the realization that we have a long way to go.
To start on that long road, check out some of these links:
- Colorado Avalanche Information Center
- Avalanche beacon reviews
- American Avalanche Association
- American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE)
- Snowmetrics (tools for avalanche forecasting and snow research)
- BCA avalanche safety and education resources