Steamboat event to promote avalanche beacon skills |

Steamboat event to promote avalanche beacon skills

Nicole Inglis

— Steamboat Ski Area reported a 48-inch base at its summit Wednesday, plenty of snow in which to bury avalanche beacons and practice backcountry search and rescue skills.

"It's been skiing pretty fun, and there's plenty of snow up there," said Mike Martin, director of the ski and snowboard business program at Colorado Mountain College.

The college is teaming up with Steamboat Ski Area's ski patrol and Nordica to put on the first ever Beacon and Eggs Avalanche Beacon Hunt event to promote backcountry safety and education in the midst of spring skiing season.

"With the CMC Backcountry Club, we've got a lot of passionate skiers and snowboarders, and they want to get out in the backcountry and want to get more skills and training," Martin said. "We were looking for different ways of educating them."

The all-ages event is Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. Registration is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Steamboat Pro Shop in the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, after which a group of beacon-armed skiers and snowboarders will head to the top of Morningside to hunt for five buried backpacks in the chutes, Christmas Tree Bowl and No Names area.

After the hunt, Steamboat Ski Patrol will lead an 11 a.m. session on beacon skills and proper search techniques in Chute 1.

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"I think it's kind of a win-win situation," Martin said. Ski patrollers "are the people on the front lines; they're throwing the bombs to make things safe. It's a good chance for them to reach out and touch base with the people they're probably doing all this for."

Martin encouraged people to bring their own beacons or borrow a friend's, but there is always an option to rent one from a local shop.

There will be door prizes, including a pair of Nordica skis, and additional prize tickets will be given to those who use beacons to successfully search out the buried backpacks. Additional tickets can be purchased, with proceeds benefiting the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Martin said avalanche safety awareness is especially important when faced with a shallow and reactive snowpack like that of this winter. There was one avalanche death in Routt County this year, as well as reports of several natural and human-triggered avalanches in backcountry terrain.

A large avalanche occurred naturally in Fish Creek Canyon this winter, and while no one was caught, that area is a common destination for backcountry travelers.

"With the year we had, with the slide in Fish Creek Canyon, we're just trying to get more community education on what goes into beacon rescues. … A lot of people just shoot through those gates and don't think a lot about it," he said.

"We're making it a little bit of a crash course. We want to show people that even though (beacons are) very simple to use, you should still practice."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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