It’s only early autumn in North America, and yet the lethal effects of avalanches have been topics of conversation around here lately.
First, there was the general theatrical release of the award-winning film “Buried”, which documents the tragic events of an avalanche that struck a Lake Tahoe-area ski resort 40 years ago.
Then came word that Hilleree Nelson, the acclaimed American ski mountaineer, had died in an avalanche while attempting to make the first ski descent of Manaslu, an 8,163-meter peak in the Himalaya.
These two events brought into sharp focus that deadly avalanches can strike at any time and anywhere, and there is an urgent need that folks who venture into snow-covered mountainous back-country to be well aware of the dangers.
Luckily, there are many options available to get you up to speed.
Know Before You Go
Nearly 20 years ago, the Utah Avalanche Center, in the wake of a slide near Mt. Timpanogos that killed three teenagers, created a program to promote avalanche awareness and provide life-saving education to as many people as possible.
That program, known familiarly as KBYG (Know Before You Go), was aimed at local schools at the outset, but the success of UAC’s initial steps — they went from 3,000 local kids enrolled in the program the first year to 12,000 by the second installment — had them branching out until KBYG is now an international phenomenon, with annual, no-cost basic awareness and education information available to just about everyone.
Recently, UAC, in conjunction with Avalanche Canada, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, National Avalanche Center and Northwest Avalanche Center, rebuilt the program and released an updated version of their program, which is available at kbyg.org.
Snow and Avalanche Workshops
For those who would like hands-on avalanche safety advice and insights this is the time of year when low-cost seminars are readily available, including:
- Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Breckenridge on Oct. 13-14 (eventbrite.com).
- Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Seattle on Oct. 16 (support.nwac.us/nsaw2022).
- Wyoming Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Jackson on Oct. 21-22 (TetonCountySAR.org).
- Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Sandy on Oct. 2 and 9 (UtahAvalancheCenter.org).
- Bend Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Bend, Ore., on Nov. 12 (CoAvalanche.org).
- Northern Rockies Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Whitefish, Mont., on Nov. 11-12 (FlatheadAvalanche.org).
Finally, there are several Web sites that provide weather and avalanche-danger forecasts for those venturing into the back-country.
- The Sierra Avalanche Center (sierraavalanchecenter.org) provides data for the Sierra from just north of Truckee to south of Mammoth.
- The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (avalanche.state.co.us) has updates for all ranges in the Centennial State.
- The mountains of western Wyoming are under the watch of jholeavalanche.org and the Wasatch and Uintas of Utah are the responsibility of Utah Avalanche Center (utahavalanchecenter.org).
- Montana has three different agencies conducting potential avalanche hazards: mtavalanche.com for the south central part of the state, missoulaavalanche.org for the southwest portion and flatheadavalanche.org for the north.
- The mountains of Idaho are watched over by idahopanhandleavalanche.org in the north, payetteavalanche.org in the west-central and sawtoothavalanche.com in the east-central.
- The Olympic range, the Washington Cascades and the Mt. Hood area are monitored by the Northwest Avalanche Center (nwac.us).