‘Know Before You Go’ program touts avalanche safety | AspenTimes.com

‘Know Before You Go’ program touts avalanche safety

The Know Before You Go program was resurrected this season to promote backcountry avalanche safety. The organizers hope to reach 300,000 people, particularly youth, in North America.

Avalanche information centers in Colorado and Utah and their affiliates have released an astounding video to try and instill safety in youth and adults before they venture into the backcountry.

The Know Before You Go campaign was relaunched this month by Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Utah Avalanche Center. The program will send instructors to youth groups throughout North America to present the video and make a presentation highlighting avalanche safety. The programs are free for the groups that request them.

The program is aimed at eighth-graders, said Aaron Carlson, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. But it's not just for kids. Thousands of adult skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowshoers and other backcountry adventurers have benefited from the education effort, he said.

The program was developed in 2004 and was seen by nearly 200,000 people in Utah alone. The video was outdated, and the program faded. A new video was produced for this season and it is an eye-opener. It features harrowing images of skiers, snowboarders and sled drivers getting swept up in slides. An opening, claustrophobic scene depicts a skier getting buried in snow.

The images drive home data that say avalanches have killed an average of 39 people each year in North America over the past decade and injured hundreds more. There were 35 deaths last winter in the U.S.

Once it captures viewers' attention, the video uses snippets from backcountry adventurers, such as big-mountain skier Chris Davenport of Aspen and snowboarder Jeremy Jones, on educational tips to avoid getting caught in an avalanche. The emphasis is on getting the proper equipment and training.

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An estimated 37 percent of fatalities occur when the danger was rated "considerable," so progress can be made on educating people about conditions to avoid, Carlson said.

"Our goal is to reach an estimated 300,000 backcountry users this winter across North America and to deliver the message that they can get out in the snow, have fun and come home alive by following some simple guidelines," Carlson said in a statement.

The video was released on the Know Before You Go website this week and will be shown on the big screen for the first time at the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center's eighth annual fundraiser for the center Saturday at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.

Tickets remain available for the event, but they typically sell out. Tickets can be prepurchased for $40 at http://www.friendsof caic.org.

For more information on Know Before You Go, visit http://www.kbyg.org.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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