‘The backcountry is never closed’: The Bookworm hosts two avalanche forecasters Jan. 18 | VailDaily.com

‘The backcountry is never closed’: The Bookworm hosts two avalanche forecasters Jan. 18

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily.com

Winter finally arrived with snow to the Vail Valley. As more terrain opens, there is a rising risk of avalanches in the backcountry.

Two avalanche forecasters, and the authors of the book "Snowy Torrents," will speak Thursday, Jan. 18, at The Bookworm of Edwards. Knox Williams and Spencer Logan have published the fifth volume of a series that document avalanche disasters across the United States.

Hear from the authors about captivating stories of survival and catastrophes in order to understand the environment that surround us.

Preparing for Dangerous Situations

Each year, our mountains take the lives of skiers, explorers and snowmobilers. Williams says the book is a way to learn from other people's mistakes that were made in the backcountry.

"If those accidents can serve as lessons to make us safer, our experience level goes up," Williams said. "It broadens everybody's experience level to hear about people who have gotten caught in dangerous situations."

Recommended Stories For You

Williams was among the first team of avalanche forecasters in the country. Without any experience, he accepted a job at the U.S. Forest Service in Fort Collins and became second in charge.

"In 1970, there weren't any avalanche centers in the U.S. I got the job out of total luck of where I lived and timing," Williams said. "In 1973, the forest service started the first avalanche forecasting system."

After the first center was opened, it became the national repository for national avalanche accidents. At the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Williams had his hands on every accident that occurred.

Resource to stay safe

To write the fifth addition of "Snowy Torrents," Williams enlisted the last hire he made before retirement — forecaster Spencer Logan.

Logan, who maintains the U.S. accident database, was able to tackle the large project of compiling documents and accident reports.

"The documents that make it to the CAIC are a starting place for the book. Depending on the information, we will go back and gather more details of the accident depending on how interesting or different it is," Logan said.

For anyone looking to ski the backcountry, the book is a necessary tool.

Logan warns that in any condition there is risk.

"The backcountry is never closed, you have to have the skills to deal with the avalanche conditions on any single day if you are going to choose to ski in the backcountry," he said.

As snow sports have changed in the last decades, the risk factors have also changed.

"Snowmobiling is the greatest recreational group getting caught in avalanches today," William said. "On a snowmobile you can cover a lot of terrain through different avalanche slopes. What makes the biggest difference for snowmobiles is the stress on the snow pack they create. There is a much higher risk."

"Snowy Torrents" is a necessary resource to stay safe in all conditions.

Logan says that "overall the book is helping to train people to make good decisions. Come to the event to learn about avalanches and hear exciting tales that end in tragedy and heroism."

IF YOU GO …

What: Meet Knox Williams and Spencer Logan, authors of “Snowy Torrents.”

When: Thursday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.

Cost: $10, includes appetizers.

More information: Call 970-926-READ or visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.