Saturday, January 6, 2007

Avalanches and public safety

Now that the avalanche in Colorado that hit U.S. 40 is in all the news, it's as good a time as any to complain about how the federal and state governments have been starving avalanche forecasting and control, even when the number of winter users of public lands increases, and more people move into beautiful Western areas with significant avalanche hazards. For example, the outstanding Utah Avalanche Center has a budget shortfall of $30K in a total budget of $256K:
Bruce Tremper, Director, Utah Avalanche Center: "There's more and more accidents and there is more need for avalanche education and avalanche forecasting. We are just barely keeping up."

The Director of the Center says its been many years since the center has had a funding increase yet the need for more services increases as more and more people head to the backcountry for recreation.

Bruce Tremper, Director, Utah Avalanche Center: "What's frustrating for us is we just keep seeing the same accidents over and over in the same places. Just the names change is all…there's just a lot of ignorance about avalanches and we would love to do more out reach programs to get more education."
The Friends of the UAC have been forced to start an emergency fund drive. If you ever skied in Utah, consider contributing. I have.

To put this budget in perspective, Utah ski areas sell over 4M tickets each year. With current ticket prices ranging to over $50, a ticket surcharge of 10 cents, that is, 2/1000, would pay for almost double the current Center budget.

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