Free avalanche training takes place Saturday |

Free avalanche training takes place Saturday

Seminar to teach warning signs, survival techniques

Bridget Manley

If you go

What: Avalanche Training and Rescue Day

When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday

Where: Freeman Reservoir trailhead, about 10.5 miles north of Craig on Colorado Highway 13

Cost: Free and open to the public

Call: For more information, call Ralph Stewart at 824-5353 or 824-4198.

A beacon, an avalanche probe and a shovel.

These are the tools local resident Ralph Stewart takes with him when he goes snowmobiling.

Stewart, Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club vice president, has never been in an avalanche before.

He wants it to stay that way and plans to help residents stay out of harm’s way, as well.

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, his club is scheduled to sponsor an avalanche training session to help local snowmobile riders and other outdoor enthusiasts avoid a fatal snow slide.

“It can be a life or death situation,” said Stewart, who also is the Colorado Snowmobile Association’s safety director. “Anything that you know ahead of time to stay out of that situation, the better off your chances are.”

The training is free and open to the public. It takes place at the Freeman Reservoir trailhead, which is about 10.5 miles north on Colorado Highway 13.

Colorado State Parks officials will teach the session, which will include information about avalanche causes and tools residents can use to free themselves if they are buried in one.

Stewart said he appreciates the State Parks representatives’ willingness to give their time and expertise to the training.

Avalanche-related deaths have already been a concern for state officials this season. Four people have been killed by avalanches in Colorado this month, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Web site (

The most recent incident occurred Saturday when three snowmobilers were trapped in an avalanche on Gravel Mountain, north of Granby. Two people were buried and killed in the slide, the Web site stated.

This weekend’s training is designed to prevent these incidents.

During Saturday’s seminar, attendants will learn about the conditions, including mountain slope and snow pack, which contribute to avalanches.

The training also will teach attendants about basic tools they can use if they or someone they’re with is trapped in an avalanche. These items include beacons that emit and pick up short-range signals.

If one person is buried in a snow slide, one or more people accompanying the avalanche victim can use the beacon’s signal to locate him or her.

Quickly locating a person trapped in a slide can mean the difference between life and death.

“If you’re buried in an avalanche, your basic survival window is less than 30 minutes,” Stewart said.

Knowledge of avalanche survival skills is as essential for potential rescuers as it is for the person trapped beneath the snow.

“If somebody’s caught in an avalanche, if you’ve got enough people there to send somebody for help, that’s great,” he said. “But, it’s basically the people that (are) right there that are going to save your life.”

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