Get avy savvy at 9th annual Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop

If you are a backcountry skier in Utah, then you would be advised to attend the annual Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop, or USAW. In its 9th year, USAW will once again gather the backcountry skiing, riding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling community at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy for a day of avalanche education. According to the Utah Avalanche Center, this is the only avalanche workshop in Utah addressing snow science, decision-making, avalanche trauma, lessons learned from recent accidents and scenarios, and backcountry/resort/urban interactions.

Utah Avalanche Forecaster, Craig Gordon, presents at the 2010 Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Image courtesy Utah Avalanche Center.

Utah Avalanche Forecaster, Craig Gordon, presents at the 2010 Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Image courtesy Utah Avalanche Center.

On hand will be professionals like avalanche forecasters, ski patrollers, snow scientists, highway avalanche crews, search & rescue personnel, mountain guides, ski industry manufacturers, backcountry skiers & snowboarders, snowmobilers, avalanche scholars, and more. The format will be 15 minute presentations followed by Q&A as well as panel discussions. Plus, new this year both morning and afternoon sessions are open to the public. In the past, the morning session was reserved for professional avalanche personnel only. Now everybody can partake and gain even more knowledge than before.

Also new this year are reduced admission rates. The full day session from 8am to 5pm is $38 until Nov 2, and $43 after that. Afternoon-only tickets are $25. You can pre-purchase, but tickets will be also be available at the door.

To purchase tickets, go to the Utah Avalanche Center website.

The Utah Avalanche Center unveiled their new Know Before You Go program, along with an updated video. (Screen Grab - UAC)

Avoid being caught in one of these by gaining education and knowledge at the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop. (Screen Grab – UAC)


08:00-08:05 Welcome

08:05-08:20 ISSW 2016 Most Common Mistakes in Avalanche Terrain- A review of the top ten most common mistakes according to helicopter ski guides at Canadian Mountain Holidays. Mark Staples

08:25-08:45 The Fine Line between Beliefs, Expectations and Outcomes – The shock and disbelief of having your world turned upside down in an unexpected avalanche, that from previous experience and knowledge maybe should not have been such a surprise. During a significant storm cycle a patroller is caught, carried and injured while doing avalanche reduction work. Mike Erickson and G.R Fletcher

08:50-9:10 Risk Acceptance, Learning to Fail and Expert Intuition- Using personal experiences to describe my thoughts on the relationship between risk acceptance, failure and intuition. Brian Pollick

09:15-09:35 Comfort Zones – A frightening account and reminder to keep your guard up, even in the most familiar terrain. Jeremy Jensen

09:40-10:00 Analysis of Utah Avalanche Fatalities in the Modern Era – A detailed study of Utah avalanche fatalities from 1940 to the present. An historical evaluation that shows how winter backcountry enthusiasts can use avalanche forecasts and other educational opportunities to make more informed decisions when traveling in avalanche terrain in the Utah backcountry. Greg Gagne

10:00-10:20 Break

10:25-10:45 Snow Temperature Sensors- A variety of temperature sensors suitable for measuring temps in the snow are available and are quite useful for learning about snow metamorphism. Brett Kobernik

10:50-11:10 Thermal Imaging and UDOT’s Highway Avalanche Program- UDOT avalanche forecasters have begun to use military-grade thermal imaging binoculars on control mornings. This tool not only helps them to ensure trailheads and avalanche paths are clear of dawn patrollers, but can also verify results. Mark Saurer

11:15-11:35 LCC Summer Project Update- New radar avalanche detection unit, blackjack Gazex installation, Town of Alta study, and future plans. Matt Mckee

11:40-12:00 Going to the Sun Highway glide avalanche cycle- A forecasters takeaways from a significant wet slab/glide slab avalanche cycle that occurred during Spring Opening 2016 of the Going-to- the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. A look at the lessons learned, and how they may be useful tools for spring skiing in the Wasatch as temps rise and avalanche conditions evolve. Jake Hutchinson

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-13:05 Welcome to the Afternoon Session

13:05-13:15 Utah Winter Review 2015-16: A look back at the winter of 2015-16

13:15-13:35 A Wink is as Good as Nod to a Blind Horse…why some things aren’t as they seem – Weather events that shaped the 2015/16 repeater avalanche cycle. Craig Gordon

13:40-14:50 Decision making roundtable- five key factors avalanche pros and high-end recreationalists look at and feel are most important in avy assessment, forecasting, and decision making.Titus Case, Joe Royer, Roger Atkins, Dave Kikkert, Shaun Raskin

14:50-15:10 Break

15:15-15:35 2015 Still Not Dead Yet- We don’t all have to be doctors, nurses, paramedics or even EMT’s, but there are some basic skills we can equip ourselves with to provide life saving interventions in a critical time of rescue. Alicia Peterson MD

15:40-16:00 South America, Decision Making and Dave Kikkert’s Gloves- In the Wasatch, we are fortunate to have a huge amount of information to help us make decisions in avalanche terrain, in the high terrain of the central Andes, we have none. A quick visit to remote Ski Arpa and some thoughts on our decision making process. Jimmy Tart

16:05-16:25 WasAngeles- A comparison of the LA Surf and Wasatch Backcountry scenes and the lessons we can learn for ethics in the Wasatch- Todd Leeds and Dr. Preston Lear

16:30-16:50 How did you know it was safe to be there? – The nuances of making decisions to ride specific terrain under different conditions, particularly the role and development of good instincts, including the concept of strategic mind-set. Roger Atkins

17:00-18:00 Social

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