Ski Haus Avalanche Clinic
Despite less than desirable snowfall this year the annual Ski Haus Avalanche Clinic was held last weekend on Rabbit Ears Pass.Fifteen people came out for a fun and informative day of learning the basics of evaluating snow pack as well as companion rescue. The clinic began on Friday night at the Community Center here in Steamboat Springs with an interesting presentation by Brian Lazar, the Deputy Director of the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center). He gave a talk using a risk based approach to evaluating avalanche terrain. He talked about the two avalanche related deaths that occurred in the Steamboat Zone over the last ten years,
one on Farwell Mountain and the other off of Buffalo Pass. He also spoke about the CAIC’s website and how to read and interpret the avalanche report. Brain shared his vast knowledge of snow science and how to apply that to terrain selection and route choices while at the same time highlighting the importance to continue avalanche training into the future.
The next morning the group met at Ski Haus at eight o’clock and carpooled up to Rabbit Ears Pass where we spent the day exploring the snowpack at Fox Curve. As instructors the group had two professional ski patrollers Kyle Lawton and Craig MacDonald from the Steamboat Ski area, Patrick Meyer from Rocky Mountain Ventures and Tim Brown a CAIC avalanche forecaster. The group began by digging a snow pit on a NE wind loaded aspect in order to confirm the days CAIC forecast. Tim demonstrated to the group how to indentify various layers within the snow pack. They looked at different weak layers that persisted as well as the very sugary snow that makes up the majority
of the lower snowpack. Even though Steamboat has not received a lot of snow the weak layers were well demonstrated due to the bad snowpack.
After evaluating snow pits the group moved onto companion rescue. The professional rescuers demonstrated the proper techniques and use of beacons. Afterward the group split into groups to run through companion rescues. The leaders buried packs with beacon inside to simulate a burial, the groups were charged with locating the bags with their beacons then using their probe and shovel to extract the victim. For many this was their first time using their beacons and although digital beacons have become much easier to use it highlighted how important it is to practice these skills on a regular basis.
Overall it was another great event. The turnout was a little smaller than usual but it was a motivated group with a real enthusiasm to learn more about safe travel though avalanche terrain. By four the sun was setting and the group headed back to the parking lot, with the feeling of a day well spent and the thirst to learn more about avalanche awareness.