Snow experts meet for annual avalanche workshop

Published: Nov. 4, 2016 at 5:51 PM AKDT
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Avalanche danger is a big part of life in Alaska, while there's no way to completely eliminate risk, there are ways lessen it, and experts say it begins and ends with education.

More Alaskans per capita died in avalanche related accidents than any other state. In Alaska, since 1951, 145 people have died, six people were killed last year alone.

"It's an unrealistic expectation to think that you can go into those mountains with no avalanche education and keep yourself and your family safe," said Melis Coady, Alaska Avalanche School.

On Friday, roughly 125 snow professionals from across the state met at Alaska Pacific University to attend the 4th annual South Central Alaska Avalanche Workshop.

Through several presentations, the focus of this years workshop was to discuss trends, rescue techniques, the common mistakes of avalanche professionals, and the crowded back country.

"That’s a new thing with the back country getting more popular, and so with that comes a different kind of responsibility out," said Wendy Wagner, Director, Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. "(It's) something that we’re really concerned with, one group will go up on a ridge line and inadvertently trigger an avalanche, and there will be another party below, unaware, or maybe they can’t even see."

Although there was an afternoon session that was free and open to the public, Friday's workshop was focused on professional development as opposed to raising awareness.