By MARK VOSBURGH
Avalanches are a problem, a deadly one at that, killing between 30-50 people (and trending upwards) in the US every year.
To keep YOU from becoming the next avalanche victim, the fine folks at the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation (WCMAF) are throwing an epic Pray for Snow Party on Friday, October 5 at Caras Park.
Why should you attend? That’s easy: Awesome door prizes and raffles (over $5000 worth of top-name gear, ski packages, and prizes), great beer from longtime avalanche center sponsor Big Sky Brewery, live music (two bands), a ski expo and films to get you stoked, and more. Check out the website for details.
I spoke with Todd Frank, owner of the Trailhead and WCMAF board member about the fundraiser. Todd said the everyone involved with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center have a passion for the winter backcountry recreation and common vision for increased avalanche safety, awareness, and education. For him, that vision was born from personal experience.
He and a small party of skiers were on the mountain in 1985 when Daniel Twohig, a Missoula smokejumper was killed in an avalanche on Mt. Fuji near Lolo Pass. Todd was a young, strong skier, new to the backcountry, and excited to ski fresh power that day.
The snow was deep but showed classic signs of avalanche danger. Similar to many of today’s skiers and boarders that he sees in the backcountry around Missoula, Todd remarked, “I just didn’t have the knowledge or experience to know the danger I was putting myself in.”
While Todd and his group were not caught in the Mt. Fuji avalanche, they were very near the accident site. He reports that his party was separated, and there were some anxious hours fearing that party members had been buried before they eventually reunited. This was clearly a close call and an “it could have been me” moment, one that Todd and WCMAF folks don’t want other Missoulians to experience.
Proceeds will from Fridays event will go to support WCMAF, who in partnership with the USFS provide the Missoula area with an avalanche website, twice weekly avalanche forecasts, public outreach, avalanche education, and avalanche beacon parks at Lolo Pass, Snowbowl, and Lost Trail.
Come on down to Caras Park, enjoy yourself, thank the great local sponsors, and do your part to make this ski season as safe, fun, and epic as this party!
Photos courtesy of WCMAF.
Mark Vosburgh is a fourth-generation Montanan who has lived in Missoula for 26 years. He’s worked as chemical engineer, backcountry ski guide, and wildfire scientist. He started playing mandolin and attending bluegrass jams a few years and has just started performing with local bands: The Black Mountain Boys, Alley Cats Bluegrass Band, and The Flaming Wheelbarrows. He currently works for the US Forest Service as a scientist in the Fire Science Lab.