The four avalanche fatalities in Alaska since the beginning of the year are a good reminder of the importance of avalanche education and training. Allie Barker, a specialist at the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center, stresses, "You can just step out of your car and be in avalanche terrain." Whether you're snowmachining, backcountry skiing, nordic skiing, or even sledding near the Independence Mine parking lot, you need avalanche training to be aware and stay safe. Jed Workman, director the of Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center, says you need to get the training and practice. "Practice makes you efficient. Practice makes you know how to use your gear you need, how to carry it, and what gear you need."
In early February, the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center (CNFAIC), Alaska Avalanche School, Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center, Alaska Avalanche Information Center, Hatcher Pass Snow Riders Club, Hatcher Pass Mountaineering Huts Group, Alaska State Parks, and Alaska Department of Public Safety all came together at the Gold Mint trailhead at Hatcher Pass to conduct a free avalanche awareness clinic. Over seventy recreational users of the Hatcher Pass area participated in the three hour training. This hands-on event outlined basic avalanche rescue and stressed the need for getting the proper education and seeking out avalanche forecasts and advisories that are available to the public.
The Alaska Avalanche School is one of the main avalanche awareness educators in the state; other resources include the national training programs Know Before You Go (KBYG), Avalanche.org and the American Avalanche Association.
KBYG promotes five steps of preparation and prevention called "The Gets."
Get the gear.
Get the training.
Get the forecast.
Get the picture.
Get out of harm's way.
To get the avalanche forecast, check out: