Breck ski patrol hosts free avalanche seminar Jan. 5 | SummitDaily.com

Breck ski patrol hosts free avalanche seminar Jan. 5

Avalanche season isn't on its way. It's already arrived.

As soon as the snow started (finally) piling up in late November and early December, avalanche forecasters like Jason Konigsberg started monitoring the snowpack. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has grown in the past five years, but forecasters are still outnumbered by thousands of backcountry users — and millions of skiable acreage — across the state.

That's where you come in. The CAIC mobile app and website both let users submit observations of everything they encounter in the backcountry, from signs of avalanche activity to the real deal. It's a way to crowd-source avy information, and forecasters can work with just about anything they get.

"People should know that what they see is important," said Konigsberg, a former ski patroller who transferred from the CAIC headquarters in Boulder to the local Summit-Vail-Steamboat office and zone this season. "We value it at all the CAIC, whether you see an avalanche or trigger an avalanche or see obvious signs of stability — any of that. If you can give us a heads up, it's valuable for us."

Today (Jan. 5), Konigsberg joins Breckenridge Ski Patrol from 6-8 p.m. at the Village at Breckenridge for the first edition of the 2017 Avalanche Education Series. The three-part series continues monthly in February and March, with dates for those installments announced soon. The first seminar is held in the Tenmile Room.

Breckenridge Ski Patrol kicks off the free evening by introducing Konigsberg, who plans to talk about the "submit your observation" feature on the CAIC apps. There are no right or wrong observations, he said, and it makes life better on all backcountry users in his sprawling forecast zone.

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"We're not looking for crazy technical terms," Konigsberg said. "Simple observations are great and they're just as useful to us."

Not only is the observation feature useful for forecasters, Konigsberg said, but it's also useful for avy forecasters-in-training. It's a near-perfect way for students taking avalanche safety and science courses to practice their skills in the field, on the fly, with the same info they need to travel safely.

"When people are learning more about avalanches, submitting an observation is a way to filter through the things you see through the today," Konigsberg said. "It not only helps us, but it helps the backcountry users as well."

After Konigsberg's presentation, ski patrollers will show the "Know Before You Go" avy education film. Created in 2004, the one-hour program shows the destructive power of avalanches and shares information on when and why they happen. It also discusses how skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and all other backcountry users can have fun in the mountains and mitigate avalanche danger.

The film will be accompanied by a presentation, led by Breck ski patrol, before patroller Jerry Tofferi gives an update on the current state of Summit's snowpack. It should be interesting after a snow event currently rolling through the county. Konigsberg spent the Tuesday before the storm digging through the snowpack north of the Eisenhower Tunnel, by hand, in search of info about the December layer before the first layer of the New Year forms.

"We look for the same things we ask the public to look for: recent avalanche, cracking in the snow, all of that," Konigsberg said. "We start the same as everyone else, with obvious signs of instability, and then we dig deeper and get into the layers in the snowpack."

Admission to the avy seminar is complimentary and includes free pizza until it's gone, plus giveaways and a cash bar.

2017 Avalanche Education Series

What: The first installment in a three-part avalanche awareness and education series, hosted by the Breckenridge Ski Patrol for skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and all backcountry users

When: Thursday, Jan. 5 from 6-8 p.m.

Where: Tenmile Room at the Village at Breckenridge, Park Avenue and Main Street in Breckenridge

Cost: Free

Admission to the avy seminar is complimentary and includes free pizza until it’s gone, plus giveaways and a cash bar. For more info about the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, including how to submit an observation, see avalanche.state.co.us.