Early Season Avalanche Education Events Benefit Everyone

By | December 6th, 2012

Utah Avalanche ReviewPhoto: Utah Avalanche Center

The fifth annual Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop celebrated the coalescing of mindsets and the changing of seasons. With presentations by some of the most prolific minds in North American snow science, backcountry users from across the region descended on a Salt Lake City expo center to discuss, listen, and learn from experts and each other.

The public afternoon session rocketed to 650 attendees, filling the conference center with experience, curiosity, and GORE-TEX. All discussions centered around the day’s focus: avalanche safety and awareness. It kicked off with the 2011-12 Utah Backcountry Review.



Events such as USAW represent the coming together of a community to enjoy the spread of information. While backcountry skiing is largely a solitary activity, it’s rare to have knowledge shared among people who often pride themselves on knowledge secrecy. But not everyone goes to the International Snow Science Workshop, so these events are a great way to share information from larger workshops and experiences.

Utah Avalanche Center forecaster, event mastermind and master of ceremonies, Craig Gordon, summarized the day: “It was chock full of lifesaving information attracting attendees from Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. We have an awesome snow and avalanche community with so much experience and knowledge to share. I couldn’t be more stoked to bring everyone together and hopefully share stories that impact people’s decision making, ultimately saving lives.”

Utah’s Alta Ski Area was the site of North America’s first avalanche-control artillery fire, and the Wasatch mountains have been a Mecca for snow safety ever since. As a hub of snow science, it’s clear why the USAW region has expanded, with visiting presenters such as Montana’s Pete Maleski, Idaho’s Chantel Astorga, and Wyoming’s Bob Comey, and booths by two-dozen backcountry ski equipment exhibitors. But Utah isn’t alone, with similar symposiums being held in the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Colorado, and New Hampshire.

Videos, presentations, slideshows, panels and discussions exemplify what the backcountry ski/snowboard/snowmobile/rescue communities can contribute to one another. The sharing of information, in an open environment, is crucial to the advancement of snow science. At events such as this, judgment is withheld and questions are encouraged for the sake of education.
“USAW brings avalanche professionals and high-end backcountry users together for a day of informative, well-rounded, and easily digestible avalanche presentations,” Gordon said.

Aside from how frequently TGR was mentioned as an excellent tool to disperse information to a large audience, avalanches are the last things many of us want to think about during the final days of fall. But events like the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop are the safest and best time to cover the most important topic of our winter: staying alive.

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