Close Calls: Learning From Others in Avalanche Country
by Martinique Davis
Mar 24, 2011 | 1666 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last Avalanche Forum of Season This Monday

TELLURIDE – Living in one of the most prolific avalanche zones in all of snow country, backcountry travelers in the San Juan mountains have more opportunities than most to witness first-hand the destructive power of avalanches.

While our notoriously unstable snowpack gives us this unsolicited claim to fame, it also offers the chance for a little edification. The San Juan Field School, a non-profit outdoor education program, will provide the opportunity for backcountry travelers here to learn lessons from others’ near-miss avalanche incidents with their upcoming presentation, “Close Calls,” this Monday night. The event is the last forum in the San Juan Field School’s Winter 2010-2011 Avalanche Education programming season, and is a joint venture of the Telluride Ski Patrol.

Long time ski patroller, member of the Telluride Ski Area’s Snow Safety department, and mountain guide Peter Inglis will lead the evening’s discussion with an overview of local avalanche accident history. As he describes, the subject of the evening’s discussion is an offshoot of the avalanche history book titled Snowy Torrents, an in-depth analysis of an array of infamous avalanche accidents.

“It’s all about learning from others’ experiences,” Inglis says of the evening, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Rebekah Hall (113 West Columbia) in Telluride.

Avalanche accident case studies are commonly used as learning tools in avalanche schools, Inglis says, and the evening is designed to give local backcountry skiers and riders the opportunity to hear first-hand about some of the accidents that have nearly become tragedies here in the San Juans.

Guest speakers involved in some of the more serious incidents will share their stories, including the skiers who triggered a significant slide in the area known as El Dorado in February, as well as the snowboarder who survived an extended burial near Ophir thanks to an Avalung backpack.

Examining these and other incidents “gives us some insight” into what can go awry when traveling in avalanche country, Inglis says, while hopefully providing some clues into how to avoid similar situations in the future.

“Learning from others’ experiences can help us make better decisions in the future,”  Inglis says of the value of reviewing past avalanche accidents.

Inglis and Joshua Butson, the Director of the San Juan Field School and the owner of San Juan Outdoor School/Telluride Alpinism guide services, urge anyone that would like to share their stories to do so at this Monday evening’s event. Interested speakers can contact Butson at 728-4101, or simply show up. The event is free.

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