Backcountry powderhounds unite Friday for Colorado Avalanche Information Center Benefit Bash
- In the 2014-15 season, 5.4 million skiers and snowboarders toured the backcountry (lift access and human powered).
- In the 2015-16 season, the number rose to 5.7 million skiers and snowboarders.
- In the 2016-2017 season, 6.7 million skiers and snowboarders toured the backcountry.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Backcountry powderhounds unite.
From Denver, Breckenridge, Aspen, Telluride, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs, the snow community comes together to share their love and respect for the backcountry and all things snow, and this weekend, a group of backcountry enthusiasts will gather in Steamboat for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s annual benefit bash, A Night at the ‘Boat, which will take place at 7 p.m. Friday at Schmiggity’s, 821 Lincoln Ave.
Partnering with Smartwool, Big Agnes, Honey Stinger, Routt Powder Riders, Routt County Search and Rescue and more, the event also includes prize drawings, giveaways, local craft brews and live music from the Fort Collins-based Whitewater Ramble, described as a Rocky Mountain “dance grass band.” Tickets are $20 per person.
According to SnowSports Industries America’s 2017 Snow Insights Study, 6.7 million skiers and snowboarders toured the backcountry in the United States during the 2016-17 season, compared to 5.7 million in 2015-16.
“The number of backcountry users continues to increase,” said Heather McGonegle, CAIC marketing and events manager. “We must do our part in ensuring these individuals understand avalanche awareness and risk mitigation.
“We attribute this to the accessibility of the backcountry and information sharing, as well as individuals becoming tired of the crowded resort,” McGonegle continued.
Being the largest and most robust avalanche center in the U.S., it’s the Friends of CAIC’s job to provide adequate education, awareness and ensure forecasters do what they do best – provide avalanche and weather forecasts that save lives.
Early on in the season, McGonegle said the snowpack offered “spooky and tricky” conditions.
“For the first time since the 2012-13 season, we saw deep persistent slab avalanches, a very large and dangerous type of avalanche,” McGonegle said of this year’s season.
There were eight avalanche fatalities in Colorado during the 2012-13 season and 11 in 2013-14. This season, Colorado experienced one avalanche fatality.
CAIC forecasters cover 10 different zones throughout the state and one of those includes the Steamboat and Flat Tops zone.
“It is our goal to bring an avalanche center presence to the local level — to each of these zones during the winter season for both center awareness and fundraising,” McGonegle said. “They tell us their stories and how CAIC is a resource they rely on. Moreover, these communities understand the importance of supporting of CAIC and share a common love and respect for the backcountry.”
In 1983, the CAIC was created within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources with a budget of $70,000, three employees and one office.
“The program has grown substantially since its inception in 1983 and is now largely funded by the state of Colorado, yet the backcountry program still heavily relies on donations to support its operations,” McGonegle said.
Today, McGonegle said CAIC has a budget of $1.5 million, 19 employees and six offices throughout the state. Eighty-four percent of CAIC’s program expenses directly support avalanche forecasting.
“It’s because of fundraisers like these that CAIC continues to offer their backcountry forecasts and programming for free for users all season long,” McGonegle said.
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