As snow continues to fall in the mountains, avalanche risk increases in the backcountry, which is why the Utah Avalanche Center trains outdoor enthusiasts on how to stay safe.
“I’m just super excited to be in the mountains,” said Austin Gust, snowboarder.
Cross-country skiing and snowboarding are popular sports in Utah, but for some, like Gust, it’s his first experience.
“I felt like I hadn’t lived until I tried it,” Gust said.
Gust isn’t the only one trying his hand at something new, the Utah Avalanche Center has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people looking to get into the backcountry over the past year.
“The explosion of recreation enthusiasts in the backcountry, it’s great to see this level of education increase as well,” said Andrew Nassetta, program director for the Utah Avalanche Center.
With this comes the need for education, the Utah Avalanche Center offers a number of courses to educate people, such as the Introductory Avalanche Rescue course.
“It’s not just about having the equipment, it’s about knowing how to use it,” Nassetta said.
“I certainly don’t want to be the inexperienced person when your partner is buried because time is counting down and their lives are on the line,” Gust said.
While the goal is to avoid an avalanche at all costs, having the skills to save someone is necessary.
“We have 15 minutes to get him out, and being able to perform those skills effectively,” said Nassetta.
The beacon, the probe and the shovel being the main tools to save someone who is trapped.
“It’s not just about being in the hinterland, the best feeling is being there, being safe and being able to come home for those who are waiting for us,” said Nassetta.
And for Gust, it’s about spending time doing what he loves and knowing that he can save those he loves most, in the event of an avalanche.
“On tour it’s like climbing ridges on top of mountains, and you’re usually with your best friends, so it’s just making memories,” Gust said.
The Utah Avalanche Center still offers classes to teach people about mountain safety.
To register for a course or to check daily avalanche conditions, visit utahavalanchecenter.org.