ASPEN, COLORADO – Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) is reintroducing its acclaimed avalanche workshop this February, resuming after a three-year pause largely due to COVID-19. This decision comes at a critical time given the complex snowpack dynamics this winter in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Greg Shaffran, workshop coordinator and MRA member, highlighted the “scary dynamic” at play this season: a substantial early snowfall followed by a prolonged dry period. This pattern has led to a weakened snowpack, raising concerns as fresh snow begins to accumulate. OpenSnow meteorologist Sam Collentine of Basalt recently projected 12 to 24-plus inches of snow by January 15, intensifying the avalanche risk.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s newly issued Special Advisory underscores this risk, pointing to the precarious nature of the new snow/old snow interface, which could lead to increased avalanche activity during snowfall this weekend.
Workshop Details and Registration
MRA’s upcoming workshop is a blend of educational presentations and hands-on training. On Saturday, February 3, at 6 p.m., a free public presentation will be held at the CB Cameron Rescue Center. It will feature an update on current conditions by a Colorado Avalanche Information Center representative, along with general avalanche safety discussions led by local experts.
The main event, a full-day avalanche rescue workshop, is scheduled for Sunday, February 4, on Aspen Mountain’s backside. Limited to the first 100 pre-registered attendees, this workshop requires participants to attend an orientation after Saturday’s presentation.
Participants will engage in practical rescue scenarios, such as locating and digging out “victims” (dummies equipped with avalanche transceivers) using beacons, probes, and shovels. This hands-on experience, critical for both beginners and seasoned backcountry travelers, requires attendees to have their avalanche safety gear.
While the workshop is reportedly at capacity, you can learn more and get on the Wait List by visiting the Mountain Rescue Aspen website.
Promoting Ongoing Learning and Community Involvement
In addition to the workshop, MRA is keen to involve past participants in setting up field scenarios, enhancing community engagement and knowledge sharing. This initiative reflects MRA’s long-term commitment to empowering both new and experienced backcountry enthusiasts with essential avalanche safety skills.
The Sunday session concludes with a dinner, featuring raffles and prizes. Tickets for the workshop, including dinner and raffle, are priced at $30. Those not attending the workshop can still join the dinner and raffle for $20. Registration details are available on the MRA website.
MRA’s Beacon Park Initiative
To further support skill development, MRA has installed a beacon park at the base of Tiehack, allowing individuals to practice with their transceivers. This facility, free and open to all, is part of MRA’s effort to provide year-round skill-building opportunities.
Avalanche Awareness and Safety Best Practices
As excitement builds for the workshop, it’s crucial to remind outdoor enthusiasts of fundamental avalanche safety practices:
- Stay Informed: Regularly check avalanche forecasts and be aware of current snowpack conditions.
- Carry Essential Gear: Always have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe. Know how to use them efficiently.
- Get Trained: Attend avalanche safety courses and practice using your gear in realistic scenarios.
- Plan and Communicate: Plan your route carefully, considering the avalanche forecast, and inform someone about your plans.
- Travel Wisely in Avalanche Terrain: Understand and recognize avalanche terrain. Apply safe travel techniques such as spreading out between group members.
Mountain Rescue Aspen’s workshop is not just a learning opportunity but a timely intervention to enhance safety and awareness in a season marked by complex and potentially hazardous snow conditions. Learn more in our comprehensive mountain safety guide.