Alpental hosts avalanche courses

With+more+skiers+venturing+out+into+areas+where+no+help+will+arrive+quickly%2C+it+is+important+to+go+out+in+pairs+in+case+of+emergency.
With more skiers venturing out into areas where no help will arrive quickly, it is important to go out in pairs in case of emergency.

With more skiers venturing out into areas where no help will arrive quickly, it is important to go out in pairs in case of emergency.

Andrew Kollar

Andrew Kollar

With more skiers venturing out into areas where no help will arrive quickly, it is important to go out in pairs in case of emergency.

Andrew Kollar, Staff Reporter

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Alpental will be hosting five free avalanche courses between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25, courtesy of the David Pettigrew Foundation.

The foundation was developed through the family of David Pettigrew, designed to increase avalanche awareness and mountain safety.

Backcountry skiing is on the rise, with more than 6 million skiers and snowboarders exploring the backcountry.

Over $54 million is spent each year on backcountry touring gear: including touring bindings, boots and climbing skins, according to Snowsports Industries America.

“The trend is definitely going up. It’s a combination of improved equipment, making it more accessible to more people, and of course the internet it’s really easy to find information,” John Stimberis said, avalanche forecaster and instructor of the Alpental Avalanche Awareness class.

With the increasing number of people, it is important for everyone to have the tools that are going to keep you alive in the backcountry, including a beacon, probe, shovel and avalanche education.

“With the improved equipment, it’s really important that people know that it isn’t the equipment itself that is going to save us, it’s good judgement, knowing how to read the conditions and relying on those with more experience,” Stimberis said.

The class will give students an opportunity to get hands-on experience using avalanche rescue tools, including avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels.

The class starts with describing how a beacon works, where to keep it and how to search strategically. Next they will teach methods of probing along with the beacon search.

At the end, the students will be taught proper shoveling techniques, as well as conducting a mock rescue using the skills they aquire throughout the class.

A person buried in an avalanche will have a 92 percent survival rate if they are recovered within the first 15 minutes, dropping to a 30 percent survival rate after 35, minutes according to Avalanche.org. Although avalanche-recovery tools can save lives, 50 percent of all avalanche related deaths are a result of trauma-related injuries.

Assuming the person caught in the avalanche does not die of trauma “The only person that’s going to bring you out in 10 minutes is your partner,” Stimberis said.

There aren’t any laws against skiing alone, but ski areas everywhere are stressing the importance of skiing with a partner. There is no reminder while skiing the backcountry; there is no avalanche control, there is no ski patrol, the only person that is going to save you is the person next to you.

The backcountry ski scene is booming and avalanche training courses are becoming more available. Alpental, Mission Ridge and Stevens Pass will be participating in the David Pettigrew foundation’s efforts to teach avalanche awareness.

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Alpental hosts avalanche courses