Beacon? Check. Shovel? Check. Probe? Check. Backcountry Partners? Check.
In the spring of 2014, I was skiing in the Turnagain arm of the Chugach range of Alaska with two of my closest ski-touring buddies. It was a sunny, beautiful, April day. We had checked the avalanche forecast in the morning and the entire "danger rose" was green, indicating safe avalanche conditions.
After dropping in, I cresting over a knoll and I felt the ground move beneath my skis. I quickly glanced down to see what was no longer stable snow but the entire slope moving with me. Recalling our ascent, I remembered the tree-laden ridge we'd skinned up and swiftly traversed towards it. From this safe zone, I watched in awe as a shallow yet long sheet of snow detached from the mountain's face.
This experience reminded me and my party of the importance of decision-making in avalanche terrain. Despite everything looking good, the stable spring maritime snowpack, mildly fluctuating temperatures, and clear avalanche forecast, we were still putting ourselves at risk by traveling in the backcountry. As a backcountry user, it is important to maintain and enhance your skills each season not only for your safety but for the safety of your backcountry partners.
On November 4, the 16th Annual Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop (USAW) hosted by the Utah Avalanche Center is happening at the Dejoria Center in Kamas. This event is a fantastic opportunity for the public to ramp up their avalanche and snow safety knowledge just in time for the ski season. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, USAW is a goldmine of information. I'm excited to attend and will be sure to share my learnings afterward, so stay tuned!
For those residing or visiting Utah, a wealth of resources stands ready to enhance your backcountry knowledge:
Utah Avalanche Center(UAC)
, a collaborative endeavor with the US Forest Service since 1980, prioritizes avalanche safety in Utah. Their statewide presence guarantees consistent avalanche forecasts, top-notch educational programs, and outreach initiatives like the "Know Before You Go" program. Their educational suite encompasses:
American Avalanche Institute (AAI) has been at the forefront since the winter of 1973–1974, combining theoretical snow science with hands-on training. Their courses cater to all, from novices to professionals like ski guides. Start your journey with their Avalanche Level 1 course.
The University of Utah
integrates theory with practical on-field exercises in their avalanche courses, aligning with the American Avalanche Association's standards. Grab your spot early as they're quite sought after. Details here
, founded in memory of US Ski Team athletes Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle, is a treasure trove of free resources and global avalanche forecasts. Dive into their offerings here
Need mobile tools for real-time insights? UAC has curated an array of app resources
With the expanse of backcountry and sidecountry skiing terrain in Utah, it is important to stay current with your backcountry knowledge and hands-on skills. No matter how much time you have spent in the backcountry. These courses offer a variety of opportunities to enhance your knowledge base and hands-on skills in order to improve safety and help you and your backcountry partners stay safe and make smart backcountry decisions.
If you need more convincing to take an avy course, check out my fellow blogger's article about buying her husband an avy course
for Valentine's Day.