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Avalanche danger a real threat

Trying to find a buried beacon for practice can be helpful prior to a real avalanche. (Independent File Photo)

Star Valley Search and Rescue and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office issued a reminder this week regarding avalanche danger.

According to Robert Roberts of the Search and Rescue, warming and cooling temperature patterns, coupled with intermittent heavy moisture snow and light, dry snow have created an unstable snowpack.
Snow conditions in many areas are ideal for avalanches, he said.

“I don’t think we’ve got a good cohesion yet at the surface,” he said.  “I think anything above 8,000 feet we still have the potential for some deep slabs. There just isn’t the cohesion yet especially with this heavier snow up on top.  If we can get that moisture to go down and go into the ground I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

According to Robert, sometimes people dismiss avalanche condition reports. Just because area snowpack is listed as being “moderate” as far as the avalanche danger is concerned, does not mean conditions are safe, he said.

“Moderate is when people are killed by avalanches,” he said. “People feel they are fairly safe and they are pushing the envelope further than they should and the next thing you know they’ve been caught.”

Rescue efforts can be hampered by distance, terrain, poor weather and unstable snow conditions, he said.
At the recent Search and Rescue avalanche training session, area first responders reminded attendees of the importance of being prepared when traveling in avalanche country.

“Pack the basic equipment in order to survive on the mountain,” Roberts said. “That includes beacons, probes and shovels. Beacons should be worn under your clothing as close to your body as you can. When you put it in your pockets; coats and pockets can be ripped off.  Also, it is smart to carry the shovel and probe in a backpack on your person.  The snowmobile can be swept away and take them away from you when you need them the most.”

Roberts also encourages riders to utilize the Jackson Hole Avalanche web page which has current avalanche information, www.jhavalanche.org.

Roberts also asked riders to take their beacons out and practice.

“Take your beacons and train with them a little bit,” he said.  “Bury it and it can be fun practice with the kids if you want them to bury it and have you find it.  It can be a fun family activity and they are learning about it.  It’s always going to be the people around you who are going to save you in an avalanche. Make sure they are confident in how the equipment works.”

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