Mountain Rescue Aspen hosts avalanche workshop
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Mountain Rescue Aspen’s annual Avalanche Awareness Workshop takes place a week later than usual this year, but couldn’t be more timely, nonetheless.
The workshop, including a Jan. 16 evening classroom session and Jan. 17 field work on Aspen Mountain’s Richmond Ridge, has been purposely scheduled this year so it won’t conflict with Aspen’s Wintersköl celebration, taking place this weekend. It does, however, coincide with a winter in which the snowpack in Colorado and around the West is even more fragile than usual.
“It’s a really good year to focus on avalanche awareness,” said David Swersky, Mountain Rescue member and an organizer of the workshop, noting avalanche deaths and close calls that have occurred both in the backcountry and within ski areas this winter.
“Avalanche incidents within ski-area boundaries is very unusual,” he said. “No matter where you ski these days, even when you’re within a ski area, you need to have your avalanche eyes and ears open.”
The workshop begins with a Jan. 16 classroom session from 6-8:30 p.m. in the Alpine Room at the Mountain Chalet lodge in Aspen. Brian McCall, avalanche forecaster with the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center and Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will lead the session.
Attendance Friday night is mandatory for those who want to participate in the field day atop Aspen Mountain from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 17. There will be a snowmobile group on the mountain and group lessons for backcountry skiers and snowshoers. Attendees should come prepared with backcountry ski equipment or snowshoes, warm clothes, lunch (optional) and whatever avalanche equipment they possess (beacon, probe and shovel).
New innovations, schools of thought and techniques in companion rescue, including beacon searches and shoveling in the event of a deep burial will be demonstrated, Swersky said.
“We really encourage people who’ve taken [the workshop] before to take it again,” he said.
While decision making and rescue in the backcountry will be the workshop’s focus, it will touch on snow science, as well. Digging a pit to assess the stability of the snowpack will be part of Saturday’s outdoor session.
“This year, it will be very interesting to see the snow layers,” Swersky said.
Registration will take place from 5:15-6 p.m. on Jan. 16 at the Mountain Chalet. The $30 fee includes both days’ activities, a gondola ticket, educational materials and access to products at discounted prices.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”