Debris from a large natural avalanche that occurred Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, can be seen along the Seward Highway. (Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)

Debris from a large natural avalanche that occurred Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, can be seen along the Seward Highway. (Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)

Backcountry avalanche awareness event Saturday

Forecasters with the Avalanche Center and officials from other agencies will be in attendance

The Chugach Avalanche Center in Girdwood is hosting an event Saturday to promote avalanche awareness in the backcountry.

Andrew Schauer, a lead forecaster at the center, said the Turnagain Pass Avalanche Awareness Day will include information from officials about kinds of snowpack to recognize as well as demonstrations of different tools to help recreators in the backcountry.

In addition to the forecasters with the Avalanche Center, Schauer said officials from other agencies will be in attendance.

“There’ll be some folks from the Alaska Avalanche School, (and) there’s going to be an area set up to test out some new beacons with a bunch of different brands,” Schauer said. “(Alaska Mining and Diving Supply) in Anchorage, Yamaha and Polaris will be out there too and I think they’ll have some demos and snowmachines to demo.”

He said understanding avalanche risk is important, especially as the warmer weather starts to set in.

“In the next couple of days it looks like we’re going to get a pretty healthy dose of snow, and when we see the extra snow and the wind stick up, you can always expect more avalanches,” Schauer said. “We’re (also) seeing all these solar-related avalanches as the snowpack heats up.”

Already this year, he said there have been reports of recreators getting caught in avalanches.

“There have been several close calls,” Schauer said. “There have been multiple avalanches with partial or complete burials where people were able to get out mostly injured and unharmed, but there have been some injuries too.”

There have been no avalanche fatalities this year, he said, but avalanches have buried hikers and hunters. Skiers have also triggered avalanches in the backcountry.

The Turnagain Pass Avalanche Awareness event will be from noon to 5 p.m. at the Seattle Ridge Turnagain Pass motorized parking lot.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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