Over 250 people packed the house at the Village at Breckenridge to attend the opening night of Breck Ski Patrol’s avalanche education series. The series drew a huge crowd — some old, some young, some veteran backcountry travelers and some new faces. All came to learn and channel Ullr to encourage him to bless us with SOME snow.
The three presenters packed the evening with something for everyone. Will Barrett, Andy Lapkass, and Nick Logan are all long-time vets of the avalanche way of life. Andy jumped right into it, getting things started with a lot of hard science, for the hard cores in the crowd to chew on. He reviewed why avalanches happen, what the snow goes through in its metamorphic process, where the snowpack is right now, and what that means for long-term stability throughout the season. Andy surprised no one here by letting us know that the early season snowpack is setting us up for a typical cycle of slide action, and it will have long lasting effects to people who travel in the backcountry. Bummer. But that’s where we live.
Andy left us with a really good point: He wants us to learn how to fish, instead of just throwing fish out to us. He wants us to learn a bit about snow science and why avalanches happen, so we’re better prepared to go after the goods, next time we’re out in the backcountry.
An awesome round of door prizes followed, with lots of goodies thrown out from many sponsors, including local Pup’s Glide Shop and semi-local Flylow apparel. Who doesn’t like schwag giveaways?
Next up was Will Barrett, snow safety director for Breckenridge Ski Patrol, giving us the low down on Breck Ski Resort’s backcountry gates — where they are and the terrain you can access by using them. This was really cool info, coming straight from the horse’s mouth. But it was given with some caution and added advice; Will explained how patrol controls what’s in bounds but not what is beyond the gate. Please be careful. Will added, “We saw this as an opportunity to reach out to the community and provide the knowledge that we have. The snow safety department at Breckenridge has about 150 years worth of knowledge between the 10 of us.”
Nick Logan finished off the evening with a mesmerizing, heartfelt, and firsthand account of the fateful 1987 Peak 7 slide. With four fatalities on that unlucky day, Nick compared and contrasted how very similar Peak 6 is, in today’s resort bounds, to Peak 7 of 25 years ago. He advised us to learn from history, so we are not doomed to repeat it. I definitely sensed a couple moments of Nick holding back emotions as he told the story. A long-time avalanche industry vet, ski patroller, and Search and Rescue team member, Nick has seen it all. We should count ourselves as a mountain community lucky to have caring, knowledgeable heroes like him in our midst.
The Breck’s ski patrol is working hard on giving us top-notch and free education, in easy to swallow tidbits. This first night was part of a season long, monthly, series. The next installment will be Dec. 20, Thursday night, at 6 p.m. in the Village. You can always keep an eye on the Friends of the CAIC Facebook page to keep up on the next event.