Aspen: Avalanche awareness seminar is Friday, Saturday |

Aspen: Avalanche awareness seminar is Friday, Saturday

Janet Urquhart
Vail, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The region hasn’t seen much in the way of big snowfall lately, but the dry conditions may set the area up for a big avalanche cycle later in the season.

As always, it seems, Mountain Rescue Aspen’s annual Avalanche Awareness Workshop couldn’t be more timely. The workshop, including a Jan. 22 evening classroom session and Jan. 23 day in the field on Aspen Mountain’s Richmond Ridge, will touch on snow science – the conditions that are setting up now – but as always, decision-making and backcountry rescue will be the main focus.

The existing snowpack, which hasn’t seen any new snow to speak of in weeks, will make for unstable conditions when it does snow, according to David Swersky, Mountain Rescue member and an organizer of the workshop.

“When we get some new snow, it will create big avalanche danger,” he said.

Friday’s session at The Little Nell hotel begins with 5:30 p.m. registration. Local avalanche forecaster Brian McCall will be the speaker. Saturday’s field day begins at 8:30 a.m. The $30 workshop fee includes a ride up on the gondola for those who don’t have a ski pass or don’t want to use their pass in order to attend. As always, participation is mandatory on Friday for those who want to take part in Saturday’s instruction, but one can attend the classroom session even if they can’t go up the mountain Saturday.

Attendees on Saturday should come prepared with backcountry ski equipment or snowshoes, warm clothes, lunch (optional) and whatever avalanche equipment they possess (beacon, probe and shovel). Terrain selection, decision-making and hands-on practice with rescue equipment is part of the course.

“You need to know what to have and how to use it,” Swersky said. “You are your brother’s keeper in the backcountry.”

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