Snow and avalanche workshop coming to Jackson this week

It’s an opportunity for skiers and snowboarders to prepare for the winter, as more people take to the Teton County backcountry.
This year's Wyoming Snow and Avalanche Workshop will share research on how wildfires could be causing more avalanches, as well as tips to stay safe in the backcountry. (Kevin Cass/Shutterstock)

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Avalanches, Recreation

As powder starts to dust the mountains, Teton County skiers and snowboarders have an opportunity to prepare for the winter season.

Later this week, experts from across the region will gather in Jackson to give talks on backcountry decision-making and snow science at the annual Wyoming Snow and Avalanche Workshop (WYSAW).

This comes as more people are venturing into the backcountry. Last winter saw a record number of calls for rescues, according to the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation, which puts on WYSAW.

“The beauty of the town that we live in is how many folks are really excited to get out into the mountains and take risks,” said Maddie Johnson, the preventive search and rescue manager. “The reality that comes alongside that is folks are caught up in the adrenaline of what it means to climb a mountain.”

Speakers will share research on how wildfires could be causing more avalanches, along with the dangers of incorrectly measuring slope angles.

Johnson said others will dive into how to choose the right ski partners and consider the many risk factors at play before hitting the backcountry. 

“In avalanche terrain, it’s important to recognize how many things are going on that you don’t even have on your radar,” Johnson said, who’s a skier herself. “You’re more excited about the summit fever. You’re more excited about the epic powder than you are about the meaning behind the powder.”

She said as more people enter high consequence terrain, it’s critical to continue education about how to be safe in the snow. 

The foundation is also investing in its rescue efforts. This summer, it bought Teton County’s first full-time helicopter, which could speed up response times in the backcountry.  

In less than a year, search & rescue received around 2,000 donations to fund the multi-million dollar purchase. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Johnson said the organization is looking forward to holding more events this winter, teaching teenagers about wilderness medicine and showing youth what to pack in their backpacks when going out skiing.

“We’re trying to reach more people and engage people who have been doing this for their whole lives and also folks who are doing this for maybe the first year,” Johnson said.

At this year’s WYSAW, Friday, Oct. 20’s events are geared toward avalanche professionals, while Saturday, Oct. 21’s are open to the general public.

Tickets range from $10 to $35 for the event at the Center for the Arts. More information about how to register is available here.


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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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