Tailgate Alaska: Avalanche safety is top priority

Words: Graham Mueller
Photos: Aaron Gotthardt

You made it to Flow Tailgate Alaska. It’s a bluebird day. The sled is fueled and you’re itching to shred Python’s Tooth. Saddle up and pin it? Not so fast, Lone Ranger. You’re in avalanche country. There are a few things you need to consider before you rip the whole snowpack down to the road.

First of all, always ride with a buddy. This is not a resort. You can’t just expect people to be around to see you if something goes wrong. By that, we’re talking about getting buried by an avalanche or falling into a crevasse. And yes, most of the terrain around base camp is glaciated and therefore riddled with crevasses that might as well be bottomless. You fall in and it’s a long way out. Your friend is your only lifeline.

How will you save your buried buddy? The short answer is through the use of an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. The longer answer can be provided by the Alaska Avalanche Information Center who run daily awareness classes at the Tailgate base camp. The AAIC’s Executive Director, Sean Wisner, serves as Tailgate’s Snow Safety Director and Rescue Coordinator. “[If we can] get people to make good decisions out in the mountains, then of course, we can reduce the need for rescue,” he explains. As in, make the right choices and you’ll stay above the snow. In addition to avalanche awareness and effective use of your transceiver, probe and shovel, they also speak to glacial travel and crevasse rescue. You know, things the general resort-going public never thinks twice about. Want to know even more? Check out the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Certification course taught right at base camp.

Another way the AAIC helps out Tailgaters is by posting a daily avalanche bulletin and forecast. Not only are these details always available to riders, but AAIC always keeps a staff member on hand to answer questions. As Wisner says, “Our whole goal here is to educate people so they can live to ride another day.”

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