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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 13 - 19, 2002


Avalanche season arrives early

Record 35 U.S. deaths occurred last year

Local avalanche connections

Avalanche hotline: 622-8027 or www.avalanche.org

Scheduled avalanche classes:
∑  Dec. 5 at Ernest Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum
∑  Jan. 9 at the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum
∑  Call the avalanche center at 622-0095 for more info.

To help with the avalanche centerís ever-shrinking budget, contact the Friends of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, Michael Malko at 726-8818 or Louise Stumph at 726-3909. 

Donations can be mailed to Friends of the Sawtooth National Avalanche Center at P.O. Box 2669, Ketchum ID 83340.

Express Staff Writer

As the first significant snows of the winter blanketed Central Idaho last week, the dawning of another avalanche season also began.

Last year in the United States, a record 35 people lost their lives in avalanches, and avalanche experts are working hard to get the escalating number to level off. Only 10 years ago, fewer than 10 people died in avalanches each winter in the United States.

Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Janet Kellam, right, and former forecaster Anne Marie Devereaux assemble a weather station on upper Titus Ridge near Galena Summit. Data from the station is used to help forecasters predict avalanche danger in local mountain ranges. Courtesy photo


According to the experts, avalanche accidents kill more people on public lands than any other natural disaster.

Fortunately, avalanches are predictable, within certain parameters. They only happen in certain terrain with certain snow conditions, said Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Janet Kellam.

The avalanche center issues frequent winter advisories that contain critical snowpack and weather information. They are a link with what has been happening while backcountry travelers have been going about their lives.

The Nov. 8 advisory, for example, predicts high avalanche danger this week on north-facing slopes, where 1 to 2 feet of new snow fell on an old, sugary base layer.

"On the sunnier aspects, this wet, heavy snow has fallen on bare ground and patchy snow and should become a good base layer," Kellam wrote. "The north facing slopes and shady locations are a different story."

The center also offers courses that show how to assess avalanche danger, how to travel safely in avalanche terrain and how to carry out a fast and effective rescue should problems occur.

Several changes are at hand at the avalanche center, where a new, full-time forecaster has arrived to replace part-time forecasters Anne Marie Devereaux and Pat Deal.

Greg Johnson, who spent two years as the director of the Bear River Avalanche Information Center at Logan, Utah, is also bringing several years of experience in the Canadian Rockies to the local area.

He is an avid backcountry boarder, skier and snowmobiler.

David Gordon, winter recreation specialist, and Kellam will continue as instructors and forecasters.

Last winter, avalanches killed more people in the U.S. than ever before. In 10 years, the annual number of people killed in the U.S. rose from eight to 35. However, local avalanche classes and advisories can help backcountry travelers arm themselves with knowledge. "The good news is that avalanche conditions are predictable, and there are ways to travel that enhance your safety," said Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Janet Kellam. Photo by Brad White, courtesy Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center

The center also has a new Lower Titus weather station, which provides hourly snow and weather data from Titus Ridge, above Galena Summit. A link to the weather station is available through the avalanche centerís Web site at www.avalanche.org, where links are also available to weather stations on Bald Mountain and Upper Titus ridge.

Kellam noted, however, that the Titus plot is geared to collect information about snow while it is falling. Because of its sun exposure, once a storm clears, the snow will settle and the station will not accurately portray how deep the snowpack is at 9,100 feet.

Because of funding limitations, the Avalanche Center will issue daily advisories for six days of the week, instead of seven. Monday and Tuesday advisories will be combined, with general snow and weather information given on Monday for Tuesday.



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