Friday, April 29, 2011

Avalanche calls up 30 percent this season

Season of transition weathered

Express Staff Writer

About 30 percent more people sought information from the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center this winter, compared to the previous season, according to the center's recently released annual report.

Center Director Chris Lundy said that despite the retirement of former Director Janet Kellam at the end of last season, the center was able to maintain the high standards she had implemented during her 14-year tenure.

"Janet fostered a tradition of achievement, dedication and service at the [center]," Lundy wrote in the report. "We feel comfortable saying that we stayed true to these roots."

The center continued to offer the introductory avalanche safety courses for which it is known, and issued daily advisories via e-mail, website, hotline and radio broadcasts.

This year, the center issued more advisories than ever before for a total of 138. Advisory traffic was also up, perhaps contributing to the fatality-free season, according to the report.

A total of 131,033 people called the hotline, viewed an e-mail or visited the website during the 2010-11 winter. Lundy said the center's website and web-based advisory received 15 percent more traffic than last season.

"Each season, we get more people checking the advisory before they head into the backcountry," the report reads.

The center has taught more than 700 skiers, snowboarders, ski patrollers and other backcountry enthusiasts through its introductory safety courses and new professional development courses. Lundy said the center hopes to add classes for next year, including one on safely skiing the sidecountry.

Katherine Wutz:

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