Experts to speak at annual avalanche workshop here Saturday

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A panel is experts will provide education on safe winter backcountry travel during this year’s Northern Rockies Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Whitefish on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The Northern Rockies Snow and Avalanche Workshop is a one-day winter safety conference dedicated to improving avalanche related decision making skills for winter backcountry professionals and enthusiasts. There will be a variety of speakers, a raffle, and vendors of avalanche safety gear, winter equipment and snow machines.

The eighth annual gathering is from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish, with a limited number of tickets selling for $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The public is encouraged to attend. Participants can register online at http://www.flatheadavalanche.org/.

“Regional avalanche workshops, like NRSAW, are the best bang for your buck in avalanche education,” said Lloyd Morsett, the workshop committee chair for the event and snow safety coordinator for Whitefish Mountain Resort.

This year’s event is highlighted by five presentations covering a variety of avalanche-related topics that will provide insight into the technical and human elements of avalanche safety.

“We are really psyched about this year’s event, the momentum for NRSAW keeps growing,” said Zach Guy with the Flathead Avalanche Center. “The workshop is not only a tremendous learning resource, but also a great way to network, mingle with your backcountry peers, and offer up a few hi-fives for the coming winter. We want to instill that sense of community comradery so that everyone is looking out for each other and sharing their stories or observations. That way we all make safer decisions in the backcountry and come home at the end of the day.”

The speaker lineup for this year’s workshop bring a variety of backgrounds with extensive expertise.

John Sykes, an Montana State University graduate student, will present his research findings on the travel habits of lift-access backcountry skiers.

Evelyn Lees, a long-time forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center, will be discussing the alarming trend of solo and uphill travel avalanche fatalities.

Dave Hamre, a veteran in the industry who is the Avalanche Program Director for the Alaska Railway, will be speaking about applying the Avalanche Hazard Index to backcountry travel.

Caleb Merrill, a ski guide working in Nevada and the Pacific Northwest, will be discussing the obstacles and positive outcomes behind sharing near-misses to the community.

Psychologist Sara Boilen, will explore psychological and economic theories to enrich the understanding as to why recreationists behave predictably irrationally in the backcountry.

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