Avalanche of donors support center
November 13, 2012
The Wasatch mountains are among the world’s most avalanche-prone, according to Paul Diegel, Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center Executive Director.
Though it is located in Salt Lake City, the Utah Avalanche Center is participating in Live PC Give PC Day with a special exemption because of the amount of work conducted in Summit County.
"We support Summit County and the whole Wasatch Back," Diegel said. "Wind is a big factor in avalanches, and Park City is downwind of prevailing winds. It’s scary because it’s in the middle of a lot of tourist terrain. So it’s a complicated situation."
With the recent snowfalls, backcountry avalanches are already a threat this season in Summit County, Diegel said. "It’s dangerous any time you get more than six to eight inches of snow on the ground."
About four people die every year in Utah from avalanches, mostly in the ungroomed backcountry, making them the largest cause of death by force of nature, Diegel said. "Pretty much everybody out in the snow is at risk."
Because of that risk, people going into areas outside of the avalanche-controlled ski areas need to educate themselves on avalanche safety, as well as check in to the Utah Avalanche Center’s daily advisories, he said.
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"We don’t want people getting caught in avalanches, so we provide daily avalanche forecasts all winter," Diegel said. "We also provide classes and free events to let people know of the danger."
He said living in an avalanche-prone area is like living in Alaska.
"In Alaska you need to know about bear behavior," Diegel said. "You need to know how to manage them and know the issues to stay safe. People need to know that they need to get some level of avalanche education."
To run programs such as the daily advisories, the Utah Avalanche Center relies on grants and donations from the community, which funds two-thirds of the organization’s costs.
"The donations are very important. Without them, we couldn’t have as many forecasters and website features," Diegel said.
Last year, the organization raised $2,800 from Live PC Give PC Day donations.
"It’s an awesome program and we encourage people to consider what Park City would be like without all the non-profits," Diegel said. "I think Park City would be a pretty dismal place, so people need to step up and help pay for them."
Donations to the Utah Avalanche Center can be made through livepcgivepc.com/utahavalanchecenter.