As the back country season is getting under way remember to brush up on your avalanche safety and first aid skills. Nothing could ruin an awesome powder day than better than watching your best friend get swept away and not know how to handle it, or getting buried yourself. Get out there with your friends and practice using your equipment. Unfortunately, I missed out on some good ol' beacon practice being stuck in Petersburg last weekend. I'll just have to organize one myself. Anyone game?
I have always been nervous and anxious in the back country. I never really went up unless I went with someone that knows more than I do or I went to places that I knew really well, under conditions that I understood. Nothing really drove home the safety concern as watching someone get buried. Thankfully I didn't have to do this first hand; someone posted a helmet-cam video of themselves getting buried and dug up. It is a very powerful video, and is definitively worth watching if you are even considering going out in avalanche country.
Since watching the video I have been reading as much as I can on snow science and avalanche safety. I couldn't imagine getting buried. It seems like one of the scariest things ever. Please, stay safe, be careful and have fun out there.
For avalanche conditions in Turnagain Pass check out the Friends of the Chugach website. They have web cams, weather stations, accident reports, and (as the season gets underway) seven day a week avalanche advisories. A friend of mine told me that his Dad sat him down and hand him read all of the avalanche accident reports before heading out in the back country. Recently, as I have found this information, I have been reading them and learning a lot. Take the time and check them out yourself. It is nice to learn what conditions and judgment calls led to the accident; learn from other people's mistakes and try not to let the same thing happen to you.
If you need to refresh on your avalanche safety, or learn up on it, you can visit the Alaska Avalanche School. They have classes and courses throughout the winter.