Kailey Mucha, left, and April Kaufman search for a beacon in the snow outside of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center during an avalanche training class on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Soldotna, Alaska. Mucha said she was interested in the course after spending some time snowmachining. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kailey Mucha, left, and April Kaufman search for a beacon in the snow outside of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center during an avalanche training class on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Soldotna, Alaska. Mucha said she was interested in the course after spending some time snowmachining. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Avalanche course treks on despite warm weather

Despite unusually warm weather, Avalanche Observer Alex Mclain wants the community to be prepared.

Mclain, who works with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, led an avalanche safety course at the Kenai Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center this Saturday, demonstrating tips and techniques for anyone planning to adventure across the snow-covered mountains of Alaska.

“Whenever we go into avalanche training, it’s important to remember that there are still avalanches even if the weather isn’t there,” Mclain said. “I would recommend people be prepared as always.”

Alaska has been seeing some unusually warm weather, with temperatures in Anchorage reaching 44 degrees on Tuesday in comparison to the 37 degree average, according to the National Weather Service. The warmer weather has been thwarting winter plans for many.

“I’ve been getting into back country skiing and it’s important to be avalanche aware when you’re back there,” said April Kaufman, an attendee at Saturday’s class. “I haven’t been able to ski as much as I usually do (because of the weather) and I got a pair of snow shoes for Christmas, but I have to brainstorm places to use those.”

After the classroom portion of the session, Mclain brought the students outside to find avalanche beacons he had hidden around the perimeter of the visitor’s center. An avalanche beacon, or tranceiver, is a device that emits a pulsed radio signal that can be picked up by other beacons even through piled snow. Using either Mclain’s beacons or their own, students followed the signs of the avalanche (Mclain’s footprints in this case) and the beeps of their beacons to find the hidden probes underneath a small smattering of snow.

Mclain also recommends that adventurers bring a snow shovel, perfect for testing snow conditions or digging a victim out from the snow, and a probe, which is a collapsible aluminum pole that can be use to find a victim or pinpoint a beaocn.

“From years past, I’ve had experience with a ton of snow,” said Kailey Mucha, who was attending the avalanche safety course because of a new found interest in snowmaching and her past experiences skiing. “When there’s not a lot of snow, to the point where I don’t get to use my nice skis and it’s just not as fun. It’s not very pretty outside and I have to watch for rocks when skiing. I just really wish there was snow. I’m just hoping for it.”

In a worst case scenario, snow wise, Mucha will be prepared, after having received the proper safety equipment for Christmas, including an avalanche beacon.

“I’m getting into snow machining and, when I was talking to my friends about the winter, I realized I needed to be more prepared,” Mucha said. “I have a sled and being aware of the dangers and everything that can come up when you’re snowmaching is important… Today, I definitely learned that it’s important to have fun, but to still be safe and be thinking about safety before you go out.”

According to the Avalanche Information Center, the avalanche danger in Turnagain Pass is considerable above 2000 feet.

“Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are essential. Sticking to low consequence terrain less than 30 degrees is recommended,” the center said in a statement. “…The Chugach National Forest wants to remind riders to avoid areas with thin snow cover like “Rookie Hill” and the Southern end of Turnagain Pass towards Bertha Creek. Johnson Pass remains closed due to lack of snow.”

For more information on avalanche safety, visit www.cnfaic.org.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

Kailey Mucha, left, and April Kaufman search for a beacon in the snow outside of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge during an avalanche training class on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kailey Mucha, left, and April Kaufman search for a beacon in the snow outside of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge during an avalanche training class on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Alex Mclain, an avalanche observer with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, hides probes throughout the permiter of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center during an avalanche training class on Saturday. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Alex Mclain, an avalanche observer with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, hides probes throughout the permiter of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center during an avalanche training class on Saturday. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 at all-time high statewide

The state reported 5,759 new cases sequenced from Jan. 21-23

Volunteers serve food during Project Homeless Connect on Jan. 25, 2018, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)
Project Homeless Connect to provide services, support on Wednesday

The event will be held at the Soldotna Sports Complex on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Schools aim for ‘business as usual’ as cases reach new highs

On Monday, there were 14 staff members and 69 students self-isolating with the virus

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate construction on hold as theater seeks additional funding

The new theater is projected to cost around $4.7 million.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
KPBSD schools to start 2 hours late Tuesday

Due to weather, all but 4 schools will be delayed

Data from the state of Alaska show a steep increase in COVID-19 cases in January 2022. (Department of Health and Social Services)
Omicron drives COVID spike in Alaska as officials point to decreasing cases in eastern US

On Friday, the seven-day average number of daily cases skyrocketed to 2,234.6 per 100,000 people

Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire
Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures, stands in front of a ship on May 14, 2021.
Smooth sailing for the 2022 season?

Cautious optimism reigns, but operators say it’s too early to tell.

Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar speaks a news conference on Jan. 10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, after she sued the state. A federal judge on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, ruled that Bakalar was wrongfully terminated by the then-new administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for violating her freedom of speech rights. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Judge sides with attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Alaska judge says the firing violated free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Most Read