Friday, January 27, 2012

Boost avalanche awareness next week

Annual event includes film festival, classes


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Search and Rescue member Cam Daggett and his rescue dog, Rockee, train on avalanche rescue. The weekend marks the beginning of this yearís Avalanche Awareness Week, a week full of events and classes designed to raise interest in and awareness of local avalanche danger. Photo by Mountain Express

Avalanche danger was scant earlier this season due to a series of dry spells, but with more snow comes more danger—and just in time, the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center is launching its sixth annual Avalanche Awareness Week.

Avalanche Awareness week begins on Saturday in conjunction with the Sun Valley Nordic Festival, with a Skin It 2 Win It Randonee Race on Dollar Mountain. Participants team up in groups of one, two or four people to skin or hike up Dollar, then ski down in a relay-style race over five hours.

Proceeds from the $50 entrance fee go to benefit the center. Participants must register in advance at Backwoods Mountain Sports or The Elephant's Perch in Ketchum.

Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Chris Lundy said this is the first race of its kind in Sun Valley.

"There has been a desire for a race like this in general for quite some time," he said. "We're tying to put together an event that might be appealing to people that are already in town."

The race is set to begin at 10 a.m., and is being held by the Friends of the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center, a nonprofit group that raises operating funds for the center.

The group is also hosting the Best of Banff Film Festival and Raffle to close out the week on Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4. The film festival highlights the best mountain films of the year, and is the largest travelling film festival in the world.

Lundy said the festival is the most popular event of the week.

"It usually either sells out or comes pretty close," he said. "But the raffle is really the way the Friends make money."

Doors open at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum at 6 p.m. each night for beer and pizza, and the films begin at 7 p.m.

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The organization will be selling $5 raffle tickets for more than $10,000 in prizes on Thursday at the Ketchum Downtown Jam near the Ketchum Post Office, though tickets will also be available at Backwoods Mountain Sports and The Elephant's Perch.

Lundy said that prizes will be raffled off all three nights, and raffle tickets are all entered in the drawing for the grand prize—a full day of heli-skiing for two with Sun Valley Helicopter Ski Guides.

"Basically, the earlier you buy tickets, the better your chances of winning," Lundy said.

Other prizes include skis, avalanche beacons and gift certificates from local businesses. Lundy said the film festival typically brings in $10,000 per year.

The center will also host two educational events: an awareness class in Hailey and avalanche beacon training.

The class will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the Community Campus in Hailey. Lundy said the class will only be a one-hour basics class, covering why avalanches happen and how to avoid them.

"If people are maybe not even going out in the backcountry but are curious about avalanches, this is a good place to start," he said.

The beacon training—1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Avalanche Training Park at Baker Creek—will be more advanced, covering beacon use and rescue technique.

The training park was moved to Baker Creek earlier this season due to lack of snow, and Lundy said it would likely remain there for the rest of the winter.

For more information on Avalanche Awareness week, visit www.sawtoothavalanche.com.

Kwutz@mtexpress.com




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