• Amy Allen

Avalanche awareness key for snow-sports athletes


(Pearson Neal, Greg Hadley, Alex Denny, Jeff Juneau, Kip Spangler, Tao Smith, Cindy Berlack, Gar Trayner, and Jonathan Shefftz)

Killington Mountain School hosted an avalanche awareness clinic on Wednesday, October 4 for the entire school community, an event that was facilitated thanks to a partnership between the BRASS Foundation and Blizzard Tecnica. The talk was led by instructor Jonathan Shefftz, who is an avalanche instructor for both the American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education and the National Ski Patrol, as well as a Governing Board member of the American Avalanche Association.

The BRASS foundation was formed after the death of Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle, two alpine athletes who were caught in an avalanche in Solden, Austria in January 2015. The organization was created Berlack and Astle's parents, and named the Bryce, Ronnie Athlete Snow Safety (BRASS) foundation: https://www.brassfoundation.org. The goal of the foundation is to educate snow sports athletes about the very real dangers of ungroomed, off-piste snow.

In addition to the talk at KMS, clinics will be held at schools and academies throughout New England during the month of October. Shefftz illuminated the risks and dangers that exist for on-snow athletes, and articulated the importance of balancing the very real and understandable desire to have fun while still safely skiing powder conditions. He discussed things like avalanche forecasting and the fact that even a Moderate or Considerable rating is still a risk and is in fact, when most avalanche-related injuries and deaths occur. In addition, Shefftz highlighted the notion that what is required to remain safe and avoid getting caught in an avalanche is something that runs counter to the mindset of most high-level athletes: a conservative, cautious and measured approach; this is a stark contrast to the predominately risk-tasking, aggressive, competitive nature that is common among most high-level athletes. Athletes, coaches and staff also participated in an engaging beacon-searching activity outdoors after the talk.

"We could not be more proud to partner with BRASS to start an eastern academy tour, teaching the athletes and coaches about the dangers in the back country, how to avoid them, and how to properly prepare yourself if something is to go wrong," commented Pearson Neal, National Race Manager for Blizzard Tecnica.

Education and awareness are key, and KMS is incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to get this important conversation going among all the members of the community. Many thanks to the BRASS Foundation for making KMS a stop on their important tour!


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