In it’s 11th year, the popular A-Basin event morphs into a two-day rescue clinic; proceeds benefit the CAIC
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The two most recent avalanche deaths in Colorado show the continued need for avalanche education and rescue training in the state that historically tallies the majority of accidents each season.
Both deaths occurred in remote areas, where the skiers had to rely on their own rescue skills to try and recover buried victims. In those situations, speedy location, recovery and timely first-aid can make the difference between life and death.
SUMMIT COUNTY — After a three-day search, rescue crews located a pair of missing hikers in Glacier National Park Monday afternoon.
According to a press release from the National Park Service, Neal Peckens and Jason Hiser were reported as missing since Friday when they failed to board their return flight to the East Coast.
The men are reportedly in good condition with no injuries. They were flown out of the backcountry and met family members anxiously awaiting their return.
Peckens and Hiser were hiking on the east side of the park near Two Medicine. Park rangers started the search when family members reported them as missing.
Search and rescue crews encountered winter weather conditions and up to 18 inches of snow on trails, snow drifts, limited visibility and very windy conditions.
Organizations assisting Glacier National Park with the search include Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead Country Search and Rescue, North Valley Search and Rescue, Flathead Emergency Aviation Resources, and US Border Patrol.
Annual workshop highlights history of avalanche education, outreach and warnings, along with updates on weather and technical info
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Avalanches were a serious threat in Colorado’s mountains long before people started cruising through powder on skis and snowboards. Early pioneers, miners and railroaders all faced the White Death on a regular basis way more than 100 years ago, and during the state’s mining era, entire towns were wiped out by devastating slides.
But 40 years ago, snow experts started providing formal, science-based avalanche bulletins to the public with the formation of the Colorado Avalanche Warning Center. It was the birth of the modern avalanche safety program in the state and the precursor of today’s Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which will kick off the 40th year of forecasting with an all-start lineup at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop.
The one-day professional development event is aimed at snow and avalanche professionals, including ski patrollers and backcountry guides, but is also of interest to the wider backcountry community, with talks on some of the latest science and the traditional ski season weather outlook.
This year’s CSAW is October 19 at the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado. In addition to the CAIC, the meeting is co-sponsored by the Friends of the CAIC and The Summit Foundation.
Pre-registration for the workshop is open online at the CAIC website. Advance registration, available through Oct. 15, is $25, but it will cost you $40 if you wait to pay on the day of the workshop at the door.
Colorado’s avalanche forecasting program is the oldest in North America, and possibly the oldest anywhere outside of Europe, said CAIC director Ethan Greene. To explore the roots of the program, the workshop will include a talk by Art Judson, considered one of the “godfathers” of avalanche forecasting in the state. Judson will describe the early days, and former CAIC forecaster Nick Logan will follow up with a talk about the more recent years of the program.
Staying with the historical theme, Ray Mumford will discuss the state’s highway avalanche safety program, and Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken will give a talk on 40 years of snowfall stats.
Technical talks include information on some of the latest Avalauncher ammunition, as well as new research on the effects of explosives on different types of snow.
Zone forecasts end, statewide forecasts issued three times per week
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has switched to a spring forecasting mode, ending zone-specific updates in favor of a statewide forecast emphasizing overall spring avalanche awareness.
The CAIC will continue to issue weather forecasts twice a day, through April 30, with statewide avalanche statements Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, by 5 p.m. through the end of April and into May if conditions warrant.
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported the fifth avalanche death of the season, as a snowboarder died in the Bear Creek backcountry near Telluride on a day when the avalanche danger was rated as high, with both natural and triggered slides likely.
Pros and amateurs test their beacon skills; along with joining clinics and demos of new gear
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY —If you got a new avalanche beacon for Christmas but haven’t taken it out of the box yet, this coming weekend might be a good time to test it at the Feb. 11 Beacon Bowl at Arapahoe Basin.
The annual event is huge fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and a chance to measure your beacon search skills in a competitive setting, with the adrenaline flowing — the follow up with ongoing practice sessions, because statistics show that rescue experts who practice on a regular basis are about twice as fast at finding and uncovering a buried victim than the average recreational user.
That’s critical in an avalanche rescue situation, because the odds of surviving a burial drop rapidly after the first 15 minutes, and outside help is unlikely to arrive within that that timespan after a backcountry slide.
Numerous slides reported from the Vail-Summit and Front Range mountains
SUMMIT COUNTY — A few days of sunny and relatively warm conditions haven’t eased the backcountry avalanche danger by much, according to forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The hazard is rated as considerable in nearly all the mountains of Colorado — with the exception of the south San Juans. With dense slabs sitting atop a weak base of faceted sugar snow, natural slides are still likely in some spots, and backcountry travelers can easily trigger avalanches by hitting weak spots in the snowpack