Utah Avalanche Awareness Week kicks off with free events as Thanksgiving storms have heightened backcountry danger
The inaugural Utah Avalanche Awareness Week kicks off Monday, just in time to talk about the increased risk the Thanksgiving snowstorm brought to the area.
Chad Brackelsberg, the executive director of the nonprofit Utah Avalanche Center, said conditions are so unstable that the nonprofit is recommending backcountry users head to the resorts instead for the next few days.
The Utah Avalanche Center is partnering with other organizations to host a series of events and classes to highlight backcountry safety throughout the week, mostly in the Salt Lake Valley. But one event is being held in the Snyderville Basin, when the American Avalanche Institute will hold a route planning and preparation workshop from 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday at the Backcountry.com store, 1678 Redstone Center Dr.
The talk will feature Justin Lozier, an American Avalanche Institute instructor and ski guide, who will discuss how to safely travel in backcountry terrain, according to a press release. Topics will include choosing the correct gear, systematic route planning, critical thinking and decision making and how to assess terrain in the field.
Four people died in Utah in avalanche-related fatalities in the span of three weeks earlier in 2019, and the Utah Avalanche Center hopes increased education will help others avoid a similar fate.
Brackelsberg said avalanches are the No. 1 environmental cause of death in Utah, a category that includes things like earthquakes.
“(Avalanche Awareness Week is) a great thing for the state of Utah and for bringing more awareness across the West,” he said.
Conditions are particularly dangerous on northern-facing slopes currently, he said, as the recent accumulation of snow is sitting on extremely weak snow left over from the October storms.
The recipe for avalanches, he said, is strong snow on top of weak snow.
His group advocates waiting three to four days for the conditions to stabilize. For up-to-date avalanche conditions, visit utahavalanchecenter.org.
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Over the next five years, Katz will donate the money to nonprofits participating in Vail Resorts’ youth access efforts that serve major metropolitan areas.