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Hundred Days: 004




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Day 003: 12/01/11 – Avalanche Awareness Night

Written By: Stephen Williams

Photography By: Jake Johnston

Everyone has their preseason rituals. Pulling out last years skis, spraying em down with some lighter fluid and sacraficing them to the snow gods. Putting on those lucky socks and doing a small snow dance in the privacy of your living room. Hitting the gym and pressing out squats and lunges until your calves and quads are burning with the desire to hit the bootpacks. Once all that is done and the snow starts falling, Jackson Hole skiers and snowboarders have one last ritual; gathering at Snow King Resort for the annual Skinny Skis Avalanche Awareness Night.

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What started as a small gathering of a couple dozen snow-safety scientists comparing snow pit data in a stuffy room, has exploded into a full-on season opening celebration. Experts like Sarah Carpenter of the American Avalanche Institute and Mike Rheam of the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center stand in front of a room a hundreds and educate the crowd on their findings in the early season snowpack. Weather forecasts that used to spread by word of mouth with no way of knowing thier origin or how much they have been blown out of proportions along the way, now are put on screen and backed by data. Local meterologist and revered Jackson snow-seer Jim Woodmency gets a an eruption of whistles, hoots and applause when he announces that La Nina is indeed making an encore performance (although never wanting to be the one get everyones hopes up, Jim downplays this winter as a weaker La Nina than last year). Keynote speaker Dr. Karl Birkeland of the US Forest Service National Avalanche Center opens some eyes as he visually presents his study on a new extended column snow stability test. Rounding out the speakers, Christian Beckwith from Outerlocal speaks on the process of getting beacon checkpoints installed at all major access points into the backcountry which wil be popping up around the Tetons in the weeks to come.

And the raffle. Oh the raffle. Snowshoes and shovels and season passes oh my. Beacons and baselayers and backpacks galore. Beanies, socks and t-shirts are fired into the crowd of swag hungry ski-bums. Snow saftey and outerwear gear companies line the back of the greatroom showcasing the newest technology in the field. “New Gear” are two words that will light up the face of any winter entusiast and are made possible by generous donations from Black Diamond, Mammut, Outdoor research, Arc’teryx, Skinny Skis, Backcountry Access and countless other companies.

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Not lost in all the excitement for snow and gear is the real purpose of the event: to raise winter enthusiasts awareness of the risk of avalanche activity in the backcountry of the Teton Range. The severity of the consequences of this avalanche activity is on the forefront of the minds of the forecasters, gear experts and skiers when this information is presented. Proceeds from the event benefit the orginizations like the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center whose employees tirelessly work to educate us daily on the snowpack in Jackson Hole. At the end of the night, a crowd of excited skiiers and snowboarders barrel out of Snow King hungry to take avalanche education classes, practice their beacons skills and get out and enjoy safe backcountry skiing.


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Exerts from various orginizations and gear companies in the snow-safety industry were on hand to talk directly to the public


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Jim Woodmency of www.mountainweather.com captivates the crowd with his always entertaining presentation on the regional weather forecast.


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Gear was tried, testing and raffled off


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Keynote speaker Dr. Karl Birkeland


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