Around 70 students and coaches learned important lessons of avalanche awareness basics with a BRASS 101 presentation from the Bryce and Ronnie Athlete Snow Safety Foundation on December 9. It was part of a concerted effort from the BRASS Foundation to reach athletes and coaches with the message of avalanche safety following the 2015 deaths of rising U.S. Ski Team stars Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack.
One of the program highlights was the showing of Off-Piste, a 13-minute educational film from BRASS which re-created the 2015 accident and includes comments from U.S. Ski Team Olympic champions.
“A dusting of powder will lead skiers to steeps and deeps of higher mountains,” the participants were told by Cindy Berlack, whose son Ronnie lost his life.
The main presentation was given by Ben Mirkin, chair of Northern Vermont University’s Outdoor Education Department. His presentation focused on the five key safety points of the noted Know Before You Go program: get the gear, get the training, get the forecast, get the picture and get out of harm’s way. Mirkin demonstrated the bear including beacons, probes and shovels, which the participants had the opportunity to try.
“This program makes a deep impression and connects people with their own role in being safe on snow,” said Berlack. After the presentation, a young athlete came up to give her a hug and tell her she was sorry for her loss. “That is why we as parents and as BRASS keep doing this program. It’s making a difference.”
Information on BRASS is available on its website brassfoundation.org.