Avalanche education featured in mountain film festival | ParkRecord.com

Avalanche education featured in mountain film festival

‘Know Before You’ explains how to avoid the snow disasters

In an image from “Know Before You Go,” pro snowboarder Forrest Shearer holds a shovel, one of three tools avalanche educators say athletes should carry when going into the backcountry. The other two are a radio transceiver and a probe, which are used to find avalanche victims.

"Know Before You Go" is a video that shows snowboarders jumping from steep mountainsides and skiers swishing down treacherous couloirs. Rooster tails of fresh powder follow the extreme athletes willing to put themselves at risk in some of the world's most beautiful places.

Featured in the famous Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival that took place Oct. 28 through Nov. 5, the film is an epic undertaking with aerial shots of snow-covered mountain terrain and footage of daring stunts executed by well-known athletes.

The most epic, or important, quality of the video, however, happens to be its avalanche safety message. At least that's the opinion of Utah Avalanche Center Executive Director Paul Diegel.

"Know Before You Go, " produced by the Utah Avalanche Center, mixes essential avalanche safety tips with scenes one would see in adventure films made famous by companies such as Teton Gravity Research.

Though the snow on Utah's peaks isn't yet deep enough to trigger an avalanche, Diegel said the tips included in the 15-minute movie found at http://www.kbyg.org should be practiced by Parkites planning to recreate in the backcountry this winter.

While resort areas prone to avalanches are extensively monitored with explosives and other tools, out-of-bound areas near resort boundaries and in the backcountry can be quite dangerous.

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"If you leave the road in Utah in the winter to go to the mountains, you're exposed to avalanche hazard," Diegel said. "That's especially true in Park City, where you look out the window and see avalanche terrain."

The film — now part of a world tour hitting places in Canada, Europe and the U.S., including Utah — has opening words from pro snowboarder Travis Rice. His message is one Diegel wants to stress.

"Avalanches don't discriminate," Rice said in a clip. "They're equal opportunity killers. They affect everyone in the mountains, whether you're snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, cross-country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, or extreme snow-angeling."

Patched in between scenes of people practicing winter sports are personal narratives from those who've been buried or who've lost loved ones in backcountry avalanches.

The film introduces five crucial actions anyone should take before or when venturing beyond resort boundaries: Get the gear, get the training, get the forecast, get the picture and get out of harm's way.

It explains it's important to have a transceiver, shovel and probe when going into the sidecountry or backcountry. Diegel said the avalanche center offers courses on how to use the tools. A schedule of classes can be found online at http://www.utahavalanchecenter.org.

Another must-do in the film is to check the avalanche forecast. The center's website provides daily forecasts for Utah's ski areas. The forecasts which also available by phone and email, or live on KPCW.

Diegel said the center launched this winter's daily forecasts over the weekend.

In addition to forecasts and courses, the film is one more way the center is working to bring avalanche education to more people, Diegel said.

"The [avalanche education] program now is in its 12th year," Diegel said. "We partnered with Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Avalanche Canada and a number of other groups to make this really a world-wide program versus a Utah program."

The movie — which includes scenery from Utah, Alaska, Canada and Europe — is an extension of the partnership.

Diegel said "Know Before You Go" was one of 40 competing films featured in the Banff movie festival that occurs each year in Banff, Canada.

"It's my understanding that there were 400-some applications," he said.

While the movie tour has stops to make across the globe, it has a few scheduled in Utah.

For instance, the Banff films will be screened in Salt Lake City on Feb. 21-23 at a University of Utah Outdoor Adventures event. A full schedule can be found online at http://www.banffcentre.ca.

Diegel would love to see Park City residents there, but he said it's important to watch "Know Before You Go" at http://www.kbyg.org before it really starts to snow.

The Utah Avalanche Center is a nonprofit that provides avalanche safety education and tools to backcountry skiers and others who take advantage of Utah's snowy weather. For information on the organization and to check the avalanche forecast, visit http://www.utahavalanchecenter.org.

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