High school students in Hotchkiss, Paonia and Delta received instruction in December on avalanches. Experts shared about the dangers of avalanches and the short amount of time victims caught in one have to escape.
The program was seen by 30 students at Delta High School, 32 at Hotchkiss High and 117 at Paonia High.
Joe Oglesby organized the training sessions for the Delta SnoKrusers at Delta High School and for the North Fork Snowmobile Club for the training sessions at Paonia and Hotchkiss high schools with help from teacher Tracy Campbell.
A lot of the students are into winter sports whether it's snowmobiling, snowboarding or skiing. So, the message from the experts on back country safety was timely.
This is the second year for the experts to speak at local schools.
Doug Marah, who is with the GMUG Forest Service as a trails coordinator out of Delta and who teaches avalanche safety and wilderness survival training to U.S. Forest Service employees, gave an introductory talk.
Avalanche professional Brian McCall from Aspen with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) followed Marah. The CAIC started out in 1973 as the Colorado Avalanche Warning Center. It is the oldest warning center in the nation. The CAIC website has the latest avalanche information and should always be consulted prior to a trip into the back country.
McCall showed the students safety equipment that all should take with them. They should have a shovel, a beacon and a probe. But he stressed, that equipment is not a "get out of jail free card." Everyone must be aware of the situation around them.
Joe Oglesby of the North Fork Snowmobile Club reports half of those caught in an avalanche and completely buried for 25 minutes will be found dead. At 15 minutes, most burials will be alive but unconscious and some with brain damage. At four minutes, people completely buried will start to lose consciousness. At 90 minutes, 81 percent of those completely buried will be found dead.
When on a slope with an incline of 28 to 45 degrees, just one person should go down the slope at a time. Then if anything does happen, the other person can come to the rescue.
The high school training sessions lasted one and a half hours with McCall answering questions by the students. He explained how the students can better assess their risk when they are in the back country when snowmobiling, snowshoeing or skiing.
Among nature's warning signs are that 95 percent of avalanches happen during or within 24 hours of heavy rain or snowfall.
CAIC reports around 2,300 avalanches every season.
Avalanche danger increases during and after major snowstorms and periods of thawing.
February has the greatest number of avalanches followed by March and January.
The most avalanches, 90 percent, happen on slopes of 30-45 degrees.
Oglesby says Colorado has the most avalanche fatalities in the U.S. because of a lot of dry snow prone to sliding, its high mountains and its colder and drier climate. Since records were kept in 1950-1951 until 2009-2010, there have been 235 avalanche deaths in Colorado. In same time period, Alaska had only 129.
Here is a year by year breakdown of fatalities:
2010-2011 season — 25 fatalities in the U.S., four were snowmobilers.
2009-2010 — 36 fatalities, 17 snowmobilers.
2008-2009 — 27 fatalities, 16 snowmobilers.
2007-2008 — 36 fatalities, 13 snowmobilers.
2006-2007 — 20 fatalities, 10 snowmobilers.
Oglesby stated that on Nov. 13, two snowboarders were killed in an avalanche triggered by a professional skier at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah prior to its opening. The Utah Avalanche Forecast Center had issued an avalanche rating of considerable danger for the day. Neither boarder had safety equipment with them.
High school graduates can apply for a $1,000 scholarship by the Colorado Snowmobile Association given in memory of Ryal Collard. For more information, call Delta SnoKrusers at 270-4474 or the North Fork Snowmobile Club at 872-2167.blog comments powered by Disqus