Teens learn how to avoid avalanches
Teens learn how to avoid avalanches Steve Udd, left, a parent of a student in the program, and Gwyneth Lyman, 16, send small roller balls of snow ahead of them as they navigate a steep slope on snowshoes during an avalanche awareness field trip for teenagers, at Mount Baker, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Teens learn how to avoid avalanches
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Walker Smith has been skiing in-bounds at resorts since he was young. But lately, the Seattle teen has become more interested "in getting tracks where no one else has really gone."
 
He knows backcountry travel comes with avalanche risks, he said. So under a brilliant blue sky recently, he and a dozen teens hiked out into the snowy landscape outside the boundaries of Mount Baker ski resort. They were there to learn how to identify avalanche terrain and spot warning signs.
 
"It's not 100 percent safe in the backcountry. So you have to know about all the dangers," said Smith, 17, a member of the Mountaineers Adventure Club. It is a Seattle-based teen program. It partnered with Northwest Avalanche Center to organize the avalanche awareness field trip.
 
As more young adults head out of bounds to ski, snowboard or hike in the winter, experts are targeting their message about avalanche safety to an even younger audience. They're trying to reach kids early - in middle or high school, sometimes even in elementary school - to build their knowledge about snow and avalanches.
 
"They're young, they're impressionable. They don't have a pattern of bad behavior yet. By spending more time on youth, we feel like we can make a difference in changing behavior," said Scott Schell. He is program director of the Northwest Avalanche Center. It's a Seattle-based non-profit and federal government partnership.
 
The center issues weather forecasts and avalanche warnings. It also offers about 200 free or low-cost education classes each winter to church groups, schools, shops and other organizations. About one-third are geared toward teens or young adults.
 
"We feel that working with younger people is the way to affect behavior down the line," since they're likely to be lifelong users of the outdoors, Schell said. "We tell them that most of the time it's safe and sometimes it's not. Learning when it's safe and when it's dangerous is one of the key takeaways."
 
At least 14 people have been killed in slides so far this season. The three most recent deaths happened Jan. 24 in Washington and Wyoming. January was the deadliest month for slides in nearly 20 years. This is according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. It is the central archive for avalanche accidents in the country. On average, 27 people die in avalanches across the U.S. each year. The center doesn't track the ages of all fatalities. But avalanche deaths typically involve men between 20 and 45, the center said.
 
After a 2003 avalanche killed three young men in Utah, the Utah Avalanche Center created a free avalanche awareness program. It was for middle and high school students. The hour-long program includes a high-energy video. It helps the teens understand how to have fun in the mountains while avoiding avalanches.
 
Better gear, more media coverage and rising lift tickets at resorts have made the backcountry more accessible and appealing to a wider range of people.
 
A lot of the kids may not go into the backcountry. But the idea is that "when someone talks them into getting into the backcountry 15 years from now, they'll have this knowledge that they've stored away," said Paul Diegel. He is executive director of the Utah Avalanche Center.
 
More than 200,000 students in Utah have been exposed to the "Know Before You Go" program over the last decade. And the program has spread to other states.
 
In Jackson, Wyoming, the American Avalanche Institute, which targeted high school students, has expanded its program to middle schools as well. It runs several free avalanche programs for kids 10 to 18.
 
Lessons are shorter with more hands-on activities. The goal is repetition and learning progresses through the age groups. "We try and send our younger, hipper instructors who are easier to relate to," said Sarah Carpenter. She is co-owner and teacher at the American Avalanche Institute.
 
The message to younger age groups is to stay in bounds and avoid the backcountry, Carpenter said. But with older teens, "our goal is not to preach abstinence. As the kids get older, they're going to go into the backcountry."
 
The goal is to give them good habits and skills to build a foundation, she said. The message is, if they duck under a rope or venture out of bounds, the conditions are going to be very different.
 
For the teens, ages 14 to 18, with the Mountaineers Adventure Club, the day began with a review of the avalanche forecast. It said conditions were moderate.
 
Eric Gullickson is an avalanche instructor with the Northwest Avalanche Center. He led the group as they set off, snow crunching under foot, toward Artist Point on Mount Baker. It is about 130 miles northeast of Seattle.
 
As they hiked, Gullickson asked the group what the difference is between snow inside ski resorts and out of bounds. The teens chimed in that ski resorts control the snow by grooming it and skiers and boarders are packing down the snow.
 
"The snow is always changing so you always have to be assessing," he said. "As you're walking around, keep an eye on the slopes. In your mind, think: 'Do I want to go there? What's a good place to go?'"
 
Gullickson then used a shovel to dig a snow pit. He carved a 6-foot vertical face in the snow to reveal the layers of snowpack. The teens moved closer as Gullickson pointed out the hard layer of snow between two soft layers.
 
"It's good to know," said Rowan Forsythe, 15, of Seattle. "The more knowledge you can have, it's another tool."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/teens-learn-how-avoid-avalanches/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is learning how to avoid avalanches better than trying to survive them?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (29)
  • jasminec-6-bar
    2/22/2016 - 07:58 p.m.

    Learning to avoid avalanches is better than learning how to survive them because if you learn how to avoid something you do not need to know how to survive something. The likelihood of surviving an avalanche is much lower than that of avoiding an avalanche. If people learned to identify the signs of an avalanche, many people would most likely be saved from the icy and tragic death.
    This article did not really interest me, but I was glad to hear that less people would be dying because of the organization that is giving teens the learning tools to identify an avalanche

  • ramitd-ren
    2/29/2016 - 05:57 p.m.

    It's better to learn how to avoid avalanches than trying to to survive them because it is better to not be in an avalanche then being in one. Basically, it's then getting hit by a powerful force. A lot of people are also proofing to younger people that "It's better to be safe than sorry."

  • charlotteg-ren
    2/29/2016 - 07:42 p.m.

    Learning how to avoid avalanches is very important because, well first, you never want to be in a situation where there is a avalanche. Also if you are in that kind of position you know how to get out of it. To add onto that, it is very dangerous to try to survive them. This article is very interesting to me because I herd that there are not a lot of people dying and also I think it is very important to learn how to avoid them.

  • jaidenf-ren
    2/29/2016 - 08:00 p.m.

    The reason why learning how to avoid avalanches is better than trying to survive them is simple. There is a good chance that you won't survive the avalanches at all is because avalanches are tons of falling snow and debris and the moment you get inside such a powerful storm you will taken down by the snow and all of the snow will tumble on you are make you freeze to death. That is why you should always avoid the avalanches then risking your life by trying to survive them.

  • benv-ren
    2/29/2016 - 08:35 p.m.

    I think that learning to avoid avalanches is better than trying to survive them because avoiding an avalanche you don't risk your life or injury. On the other hand trying to survive an avalanche can risk your life or somebody else's life.
    Overall I think that avoiding an avalanche is better than trying to survive one.

  • isabellag-ren
    3/08/2016 - 09:39 p.m.

    I am glad that teens got an opportunity to learn about avalanches. I believe this because, it is a great thing that they can use to protect themselves. Also, it could just give them a greater knowledge of avalanches and they can spread their knowledge to other people. Finally, they can learn what to avoid when skiing on dangerous mountains.

  • jackb-ren
    3/09/2016 - 07:46 a.m.

    Learning to avoid avalanches is better than trying to survive one for multiple reasons. It is better to avoid an avalanche because you don't really have a chance to get hurt. Also, if you learn to avoid avalanches, you can tell which mountains are safe. You can pass down this knowledge to other people to keep them safe.

  • gabbyv-ren
    3/09/2016 - 05:00 p.m.

    I think the techniques they use are very awesome and helpful. I wonder why they use those specific techniques?
    Perhaps they do it because it is their first instinct.

  • gabelk-ren
    3/12/2016 - 09:50 a.m.

    Learning how to avoid avalanches is better than learning to survive them is better because it teaches you to not get into one. It teaches you not to get into one or start one. While learning how to survive one is just teaching you how to get out of one that happened.

  • brycea-ren
    3/14/2016 - 06:11 p.m.

    Learning How to avoid avalanches is much better than trying to survive them. This is because, it could be hard to escape, or even survive, an avalanche. Avoiding them is also easier than trying to survive them. It doesn't take skill, strength, or will to see the right conditions for an avalanche. So, it would be easier and less time consuming to quickly teach subjects how to avoid avalanches, then to train subjects how to escape and survive avalanches.

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