Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good signs


The great idea to place signs on top of Bald Mountain that show the current level of avalanche risk in the backcountry is of the "why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-sooner?" variety.

Nothing will ever discourage thrill-seekers from pursuing the endorphin highs of smooth turns down mountainsides of uncut powder. But they could help the uninitiated, unprepared and uninformed to resist the siren call of the untouched runs that beckon beyond the Ski Area Boundary signs when danger is high.

Putting powerful information like the level of avalanche risk directly into the hands of those who need it will save lives.

Sun Valley Co. and the Sawtooth National Avalanche Center are to be commended for putting the signs on Seattle Ridge and at the top of Baldy where they'll be readily visible to anyone getting off the chairlifts and contemplating a trip outside the controlled area.

It's no secret that people—especially young people—who are totally unprepared and uneducated in the deadly ways of avalanches ski Baldy's backside. Most survive unscathed, but many take unacceptable risks and unwittingly endanger the lives of rescuers as well.

A wicked winter storm that dumped 2 feet of snow on Baldy in less than 24 hours earlier this week led the avalanche center to warn people not to venture into the backcountry at all because conditions were so unstable. Either the message didn't get out to the skiers seen exiting the backside without shovels, beacons or probes—or they willfully ignored it.

Prevention is the only cure for needless avalanche deaths and the harm they inflict on families and communities of winter sports enthusiasts.




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