Tahoe Backcountry Safety Awareness Week

A coalition of avalanche safety, nonprofit, and winter backcountry organizations have established December 14-18 as the Tahoe-Truckee region’s first backcountry safety awareness week. The unique collaboration is an effort to amplify backcountry safety and avalanche education opportunities and encourage people to know what they’re getting into before they venture out unprepared. 

After ski resorts closed last Spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, backcountry touring exploded in Tahoe and across the nation. Although resorts intend to be open this winter, backcountry gear sales and avalanche course registration suggest there will be an increase in backcountry recreation this winter, with some being first-timers. Organizers of Tahoe Backcountry Safety Awareness Week want attendees to come away with a better understanding of how dangerous the backcountry can be and why training is imperative before accessing unpatrolled, uncontrolled terrain. 

Tahoe Donner
Both downhill and cross country skiing abound at Tahoe Donner

“The Tahoe-Sierra backcountry is just as dangerous as it is appealing,” Tahoe Backcountry Alliance Executive Director Greg Garrison said. “Reducing risk in the backcountry is critical not just for your safety, but for the safety of others who are put at risk when you make a mistake.”

A week-long educational video series will lead up to a live, virtual panel on Thursday, Dec. 17 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. composed of local professional athletes Cody Townsend, Jeremy Jones, Elyse Saugstad, and Amie Engerbretson who will provide learning opportunities and resources for the public to encourage proper training before heading into the backcountry. The star-studded panel will discuss their own experiences in the backcountry and answer questions from attendees. To register for this free event, visit takecaretahoe.org/backcountry/ and complete the sign-up section.

“Backcountry travelers need to recognize avalanche hazards and be prepared for self-rescue as outside help is unlikely to arrive in time,” says Sierra Avalanche Center Director David Reichel. “Every time rescue personnel respond to calls in the backcountry, not only are they risking their own lives when they enter hazardous, sometimes avalanche prone terrain, they also now risk contracting COVID-19 on any given rescue.”

Photo submitted by Northstar Resort

The educational series will introduce attendees to topics including avalanche safety equipment, backcountry etiquette, what training is needed, where to get trained, and motorized backcountry tips and safety. Local guides and outfitters will also have special offers available to attendees, such as coupon codes for AIARE course sign-ups and free airbag testing.  Videos will be released each morning at 7 a.m. on takecaretahoe.org and will remain available for the duration of the winter. 

Tahoe Backcountry Safety Awareness Week Partnership: Sierra Avalanche Center, USDA Forest Service Region 5, Tahoe Backcountry Alliance, Alpenglow Expeditions, Blackbird Mountain Guides, Tahoe Mountain Sports, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Lake Tahoe Community College, Sierra Nevada University, Lake Tahoe Snowmobilers, Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, Tahoe Fund, Outdoor Alliance, Tahoe Sports Hub, NASTC, International Alpine Guides, Backcountry Babes, Golden State Guiding, Sierra Mountain Guides, Incline Village General Improvement District, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, Town of Truckee, Nevada Department of Outdoor Recreation, and Sports Basement. 

Learn more at www.takecaretahoe.org/backcountry.

About Tahoe Backcountry Safety Awareness Week

Tahoe Backcountry Safety Awareness Week is a coalition of guide services, non-profits, public land managers, and professional skiers and riders committed to keeping safety at the forefront of winter backcountry activities. For additional information, contact Crew Stover at cstover@tahoefund.org.

Content submitted by Jess Weaver, JVP Communications