It’s that time of year again! The leaves are falling from the trees in the valleys, and there is snow in the peaks. Winter is returning to the Northern Hemisphere! As we start preparing our ski and snowboard gear for the upcoming season, let us not forget to also prepare ourselves for the greatest danger we face in the mountains: avalanches. It is always a good idea to refresh our minds and sharpen our skills every year.
Here is an excellent video from High Fives Foundation to get you stoked for the 2012-2013 ski season and to remind us all of the great dangers we face when venturing into avalanche terrain and what we can do to prepare ourselves.
So, as you are pulling your winter gear out from storage, ensure that your avalanche safety equipment is in good working order. Put fresh batteries in your beacon, and test its send & receive functions and range. Deploy your probe, and assemble your shovel to check them for damage. Deploy your airbag unit, and fill/refill your canister(s) to make sure it is ready when you need it. If you are lacking any equipment, now is a great time to stock up before the winter hits.
The most important thing we can all do to prepare ourselves is education. Look for avalanche courses and seminars in your area. Avalanche.org has a comprehensive list of avalanche course providers, and they also have a great online tutorial. The US Forest Service National Avalanche Center is another excellent resource for education. Visit the websites of The American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education (AIARE), American Avalanche Institute (AAI), and American Avalanche Association (AAA) for Avalanche Level I, II & III courses, in addition to courses for snow and avalanche professionals.
It is also extremely important to ‘Know Before You Go’ – Before venturing into the backcountry, be sure to check your local Avalanche Forecast. Visit Avalanche.org for links to your local Avalanche Center. Bookmark them, and check them daily.
For those of you in the Salt Lake City area, the Utah Avalanche Center is putting on the 4th annual Utah Snow & Avalanche Workshop (USAW) this weekend, Saturday, November 3, at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. Tickets are $26 if purchased in advance or $30 at the door. This event is the best way to get ready for the ski season, learning the latest advancements in snow safety, checking out the latest equipment, and mingling with fellow backcountry skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Our guides attend every year, so say hello to them if you happen to see them in attendance.
Here’s to a good and safe ski season to us all. May it be deep and stable.