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Danger in the Backcountry


Explosive growth in backcountry interest leads to educational challenge

The untouched pillows of snow are a magnet for skiers and snowboarders. Across the continent, skiers and riders are finding their way into the backcountry in skyrocketing numbers. In the past three years, sales of backcountry skis, boards, bindings and boots have boomed 137%. And that was before the pandemic! 

 The BRASS Avalanche Safety Foundation and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association teamed up to bring you a free webinar on backcountry safety and some of the dangers that are looming in the season ahead.

Unlike sports like SCUBA diving that require certification, anyone can head into the backcountry. Each year, around two-dozen skiers and snowboarders are killed by avalanches across the USA and Canada – in the backcountry and even inbounds! With the burgeoning numbers, how does the educational message reach them?

 The hour long panel explores both the joys and dangers of the backcountry. How can your travel in the backcountry mitigate the avalanche danger? How do you keep from getting lost? What steps do you take in case of a backcountry injury? How can the message of safety reach skiers who aren’t buying lift tickets?

The four panelists represent a great cross section of information and hands-on experience from equipment sales to avalanche education to backcountry safety.

Steve Berlack

Steve Berlack

BRASS Foundation

A long time ski racing coach, Steve and his wife Cindy lost their son Ronnie, a rising young star on the U.S. Ski Team, to an avalanche in 2015. Today, Steve chairs the Bryce and Ronnie Snow Safety Foundation (BRASS Avalanche) which advocates for avalanche safety education.

Mark Staples

Mark Staples

U.S. Forest Service - KBYG

A U.S. Forest Service avalanche forecaster, Mark works with the Utah Avalanche Center, which founded the highly-acclaimed educational program Know Before You Go (KBYG). He’ll speak to the value of education and the role programs like KBYG play to support backcountry safety.

Nick Sargent

Nick Sargent

Snowsports Industries America

A highly-respected voice in the global equipment industry, Nick is president and CEO of Snowsports Industries America (SIA), the winter outdoor industry’s non-profit, member-owned trade association representing winter outdoor suppliers, retailers, sales reps and resorts. He’ll dive into the statistics which predict a backcountry boom.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Backcountry Training Expert

Matthew Smith has spent his life in the backcountry, as a patroller, guide and instructor, currently working in B.C. as a critical care flight paramedic.  He provides outdoor safety training for professionals and recreationalists through his Canadian Outdoor Med and helps operate Pacific Alpine Institute, specializing in outdoor emergency care training, owned by wife Catherine.



Tom Kelly

BRASS Avalanche Foundation

A well known figure in the sport for his career-long role as spokesperson for the U.S. Ski Team, Tom is a noted public speaker and panel moderator. He will use his expertise to guide the panel through a wealth of topics outlining the issue, its urgency and potential solutions.

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