Arctic Man education: Avalanche workshops, demos and more

by • March 12, 2016 • ColumnsComments (0)222

Courtesy Graham Predeger Dozens of participants came out during a free avalanche rescue workshop at Arctic Man, 2015.

Courtesy Graham Predeger
Dozens of participants came out during a free avalanche rescue workshop at Arctic Man, 2015.

My first trip to Arctic Man was in 2012 as an avalanche forecaster for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center (CNFAIC). A ‘work trip,’ first and foremost, we saw an incredible venue in the Arctic Man camp to engage and outreach with the Alaska snowmachiner community. I also recognized an opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of racing Arctic Man.

With a single phone call to my good friend Johnny May a lifelong ski racer in Colorado, the first CNFAIC-sponsored Arctic Man team was born. Myself on the throttle and Johnny milking speed out of those long, skinny 220cm boards we finished right in the middle of the pack.  I had a blast as a rookie drumming up a bit of support and exposure for the avalanche center but our primary mission for this first trip was to teach riders valuable avalanche rescue skills and raise awareness amongst the motorized community.  2016 will mark our fifth trip to Arctic Man for the CNFAIC and what we hope will be our biggest presence to date.

Part NASCAR, part Mardi Gras, the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic is the largest gathering of snowmachiners (and skiers) in the state.  This event provides avalanche forecasters and educators a unique opportunity to interact with and engage mountain riders from across Alaska.  Steep terrain, and often times fresh avalanches, provide the backdrop at camp where you can find the CNFAIC crew providing gear demos, answering questions and conducting workshops at the avalanche outpost.
The challenge for us is the countless distractions all vying for attention.  From world-class snow and terrain, a high octane thrilling spectator race, and a beer tent with a mechanical bull; who’s got time for avalanche safety?

Well I’m here to tell you that in less than two hours, we can teach you avalanche rescue basics, still leaving plenty of time to enjoy all the Arctic Man festivities.

Again in 2016, we’ll be hosting several free avalanche rescue workshops between Wednesday and Saturday.  Wildly successful in years past, participants will learn the basics of beacon searching, probing and strategic shoveling during a fun, hands-on workshop.  I encourage anybody interested in how to effect a safe, and efficient avalanche rescue to grab your gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and your favorite riding partner to join us.

We’ll also be working in conjunction with the Eastern Alaska Range Avalanche Center (EARAC, based out of Fairbanks) to staff our avalanche beacon park. Set up again near the beer tent, the beacon park proves a great resource for beginners and experts alike to practice and hone their avalanche transceiver searching skills.

Test your beacon skills, or better yet test your riding partners beacon skills!  After all, it’s your partner that you’ll be counting on if things go bad in the backcountry.

Look for the Avalanche Outpost again this year near the beer tent and come join us for one of several free avalanche rescue workshops.  Stop by for gear demos, avalanche safety information or bring your crew by for a workshop and ‘know before you go’ into the backcountry.

Graham Predeger works as an avalanche specialist with the Chugach NF Avalanche Info Center based in Girdwood.  He can be reached at: graham@chugachavalanche.org.

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