Contributed by Debra McGhan
Jed Workman and Allie Barker have had one very busy, tough season to date. The Chickaloon couple operates the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center which has had three fatal accidents in their region since November.
Those accidents have resulted in a lot more time and effort on their part but the two know, this just comes with the commitment to provide information for the public who travel and recreate in Hatcher Pass.
The Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center (HPAC) is part of the statewide network of avalanche centers who receive support and oversight from the Alaska Avalanche Information Center (AAIC.) In a typical week Workman and Barker, who volunteer their services, will spend 30 to 50 hours conducting research and posting forecasts on their website. But this season their investment of time has increased substantially.
“Your brain can’t be turned off because the mountain environment is always changing,” Barker told the Frontiersman.
The AAIC is working diligently with regional centers like HPAC to increase awareness and provide free training opportunities for the public with support and collaboration from agencies including the Alaska Dept. of Public Safety – Division Alaska State Troopers, the Chugiak National Forest Avalanche Information Center, Alaska Avalanche School and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Backcountry – Live to Ride Another Day – educational programs will cover a variety of topics to help those that live, work, travel and play in the mountain environment be prepared.
The courses range from one to four hours and are free and open to all ages. The HPAC will hold several programs this spring. You can get the full schedule or request a program for your school or community at www.Alaskasnow.org.
Because the HPAC is run by volunteers, covering the cost of operations is made possible by individual donations.
“All of our forecast centers depend on individuals in order to operate,” said Pete Carter, AAIC Board President. “We wouldn’t exist if the public didn’t support us.”
Donations to the HPAC increased following each of the fatal accidents this season but still fell far short of actual costs.
On February 20, 2016 starting at 7pm you can join in the effort to support the center by attending a Cabin Fever Reliever Fundraiser at the Government Peak Chalet. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Hoarding Marmot in Anchorage or Backcountry Bike and Ski in Palmer.
You can also purchase tickets at the door but space is limited and a sell-out crowd is expected.
All proceeds raised will go directly to support the HAPC.