The Bryce and Ronnie Snow Safety Foundation took its message of avalanche safety and education to resorts from coast to coast, attending National Ski Areas Association's Winter Conferences and Trade Shows at both Squaw Valley, Calif. and Killington, Vt. The two conferences brought BRASS leadership in contact with leaders from resorts, industry and partners aligned in expanding awareness of avalanche safety.
BRASS had a trade show presence at both the Jan. 14-15 Western Conference in Squaw Valley and the Feb. 4-5 Eastern Conference in Killington.
"This was an amazing opportunity for BRASS to build awareness of out initiatives for avalanche safety and education," said board member Cindy Berlack, who attended both conferences. Board member Laura Astle joined for the Squaw Valley event. "What was most impactful for us was the ability to speak face-to-face to so many influential persons and to expand our avalanche safety discussion to resorts."
Engagement from NSAA leaders was very strong, with discussions on how BRASS could play a greater role with resorts. BRASS officials met with NSAA President Kelly Pawlak, along with Director of Risk and Regulatory Affairs David Byrd and Director of Public Policy Geraldine Link.
One of the key discussions centered on the new Avalanche Awareness eLearning module produced jointly by BRASS, U.S. Ski & Snowboard and the Utah Avalanche Center. That module was originally produced for coaches but can be adapted to use by resort employees, ski patrol and others to provide a simple, online solution to learning the basics of avalanche safety.
BRASS also met with National Ski Patrol Executive Director Meegan Moszynski, who welcomed the engagement with BRASS to expand awareness of avalanche safety.
One of the key avalanche safety industry vendors present was Eddie Schoen, a project manager for the Swiss company Wyssen Avalanche Control. Wyssen is notable as it was the company used by resort officials in Sölden, Austria to install a new remote-controlled boom system to mitigate avalanche conditions on the slopes that took the lives of Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack in 2015. Schoen, who also works as a mountain guide in Jackson, Wyo., helped engage BRASS with Wyssen on their common interests of avalanche safety.
BRASS also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen, along with NSAA's public policy leader Link. The Forest Service is a vital piece of the avalanche safety puzzle in America, with its open backcountry in national forests throughout the country a prime target for skiers and riders. Among the topics was the Ski Area Fee Retention Act, which would help support recreation improvements in ski areas by establishing a funding account within the U.S. Forest Service specifically dedicated to permitting. BRASS and others see avalanche education a vital piece as more and more skiers and riders head to the backcountry.
Berlack, who attended both the NSAA Western and Eastern Conferences, remarked on the differences between the two. "There was a clear culture of avalanche awareness in the west, but less so in the east," she said. "One of the points BRASS wants to make is that avalanches can be an issue in any mountain environment. And while they may not be as prevalent at New England resorts, those skiers and snowboarders can easily venture into danger if they are not prepared."
At the Western Conference, Berlack was an active participants in the Western Ski Patrol Directors meeting. Topics at the meeting included conformity of signage, legal issues and the responsibity of resorts with inbound avalanches. Eastern Patrol Directors were less engaged on avalanche safety.
BRASS plans to continue its engagement with resorts through NSAA, looking to ways it can make the sport safer for all, said Berlack.