The Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center released its class schedule last week, which includes four avalanche basics classes and a sidecountry skiing safety seminar.
The first class will be held Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 6-8 p.m. at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum. According to the class’s description, the class is meant to serve either as a refresher for anyone with avalanche training or as a basic introduction to snow safety.
Avalanche forecasters Blase Reardon, Simon Trautman and Scott Savage with the center will cover how to recognize avalanche conditions and warning signs, how recreationists can tell if they are in avalanche terrain, how to travel safely in the backcountry and how to perform an immediate avalanche rescue.
The class will be followed by an optional all-day field session on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the details of which will be available at the classroom session. Participants must attend a classroom session before attending a field session.
The next public class will be Tuesday, Jan. 8, from 6-8 p.m. at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater in Hailey—not at the Community Campus in Hailey, where the center has held previous classes. The field session will be Saturday, Jan. 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The last public class, which is geared toward snowmobilers, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 17, from 7-9 p.m. at Woodside Motorsports in Hailey. The field session for this class will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The center will also hold a class solely for emergency responders on Thursday, Jan. 3, from 6-8 p.m. at the Greenhorn Gulch Fire Station just south of East Fork Road. The field session will be held on Saturday, Jan. 5.
The center is launching a new seminar this year solely for sidecountry or out-of-bounds skiers. Trautman said earlier this month that the seminar is designed for people who ski on Bald Mountain and use the lifts to access the ski area, but who duck the ropes surrounding the ski area and head into what is essentially the backcountry.
Trautman said a separate class could be helpful in explaining to sidecountry skiers why they need to be concerned about avalanche danger.
“The dangers from a snow or avalanche perspective are the same [in the sidecountry or backcountry],” he said. “What is very different is people’s mentalities.”
Trautman said skiers in the sidecountry might not think about how their actions might impact other nearby skiers. For example, he said, skiers in the sidecountry are not always careful about ensuring that they don’t trigger an avalanche that could catch people below.
“When you’re in the backcountry and you look up and see someone above you, you notice it,” he said. “[But] if you duck the rope and go into what is essentially backcountry, it’s hard to change your mentality.”
The seminar will be held Thursday, Feb, 21, from 6-8 p.m. at a yet-to-be-determined location. The seminar will include a panel and open discussions with avalanche forecasters, the Sun Valley Ski Patrol and Sawtooth Mountain Guides.
Kate Wutz: email@example.com