Letters, Feb. 24-26: If you venture into the backcountry, do it safely
Be safe in backcountry
Since late January, there have been 22 avalanche deaths in America across 16 incidents in nine states, including here in Park City. It’s been one of the most deadly periods in recorded history.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see people get killed doing something they love. It makes these deaths very hard to wrap your head around.
I still feel that way about our son, Ronnie Berlack, and his U.S. Ski Team teammate, Bryce Astle, who died in a 2015 avalanche on a glorious powder day in Austria. They didn’t have the avalanche forecast and they didn’t know the dangers when they wandered off piste.
I speak for both the Berlack and Astle families in expressing our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the avalanche victims. The grief is crushing. It’s long term, as we think of our children every day and how things could have been different for them.
The one constant in avalanche deaths is decision making. Do you understand the forecast? Do you truly feel safe to ski? Is there a plan and will you stick to it? Are you prepared to encounter others who may impact your safety?
If you want to venture into the backcountry, do it safely. Get the education you need. You’ll find an education index at our website: brassavalanche.org. Understand the forecast. Make conservative decisions like your life depends on it. Because it does.
BRASS Avalanche Safety Foundation chairman
Put your money where your mouth is
It is interesting to see signs in yards, slogans painted on the streets (New York City and Park City, for example), or comments that “we need to have a conversation” on diversity and systemic racism. Such things accomplish little other than to make some people feel virtuous. So what can we do that is of consequence? Two suggestions:
The first is really quite simple and obvious: treat EVERYONE with respect and friendliness, regardless of color, age, dress, gender, accent, tattoos and piercing, etc.
The second is a little more difficult and falls into the “put your money where your mouth is” category: find a charter school in a large city and donate money for scholarships for underprivileged children. Parents, especially single parents, in the poorer sections of most large cities are desperate to get a good education for their kids, and their local public schools usually have very poor academic performance and graduation statistics. The vast majority of charter schools have considerably better track records, yet those desperate parents can’t afford them. While the results don’t show overnight, education is the key to those kids getting better jobs, moving up the economic ladder and enjoying a better life.
At the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago the NFL ran an ad that they were donating $250 million for “social equity.” Rather than running commercials to improve their image and “raise awareness,” that money could help literally thousands of underprivileged kids in the hometowns of NFL teams reach a better life.
Talk is cheap, doing something that really makes a difference is much harder. Do Black Lives really Matter to you?
The trail to disaster
So let me get this straight. Basin Rec is now implementing a plan to ticket, boot or tow cars in an effort to control trail overcrowding. And one of their rocket science ideas is to propose a shuttle system to ferry people back and forth. Do these people coming up with these hair-brained ideas have any clue of what they are doing other than wasting taxpayer money, and envisioning a plan only found in fantasy land?
How about for starters we look at the real issue and how we arrived at such a mess to begin with. The county and city continue to allow record growth at a pace that far outweighs what the trails can handle. Then they decide to blame people coming up from Salt Lake, instead of admitting they have allowed far too much growth. Not to mention the influx of Californians and East Coast types who think they own the trails and should have them all to themselves. Furthermore, these same lack-of-a-braintrust thinks it’s OK to raise taxes to help pay for their shortsightedness. What is it going to take for this incompetent council and Basin Rec to realize the problem of trail overcrowding lies squarely on the county’s inability to limit or stop growth?
The county councilors and decision makers can’t see past their own nose. What did they think would happen by allowing all this building and migrating in of people? And to even think of proposing a shuttle system and whatever other nonsense they have planned will only add to an increase in property tax that full-time homeowners shouldn’t bare. Trailheads are overcrowded because the County Council failed miserably, and now their solution is to extract money from the trail user in an effort to make up for the ineptitude. It’s time for the councilors and Summit County board of officials, and planning commission to bring their heads out of the sand, open their eyes, and start taking responsibility for allowing this situation to become a boiling pot.
School choice is important
Prior to the pandemic, school choice wasn’t something I gave much thought. My two kids went to our local brick-and-mortar school. But once COVID-19 started to become a larger issue and our school system abruptly transitioned to be completely online, I searched for options that would provide an option that minimized the disruption to their learning.
Fortunately, I found Utah Virtual Academy. I liked that they were already an online school before the pandemic, so they know how to support students in a virtual classroom. While the transition was an adjustment for my kids, they became better at being independent quickly at such a young age. I’ve also had the opportunity to become more involved with their learning now that their classroom is in our home.
Having the ability to find a safe, trusted online school has given me a new perspective on how important school choice is. Online learning and the transition to it can be challenging. What’s important is that families have the ability to choose and explore if this option works for them. That’s why I’ve become an advocate for school choice. Families deserve the option to find the proper learning environment for their kids, pandemic or not.
Salt Lake City
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“History buffs will tell you that Park City suffered many devastating fires fanned by canyon winds,” writes Andrea Barros. “It could happen again if we do not reduce wildfire fuel.”