Snow Fest

Contributed by Debra McGhan

A group of riders head for the hills at Arctic Man 2016.

Snow Fest
11/5/2016 – 11AM
Alaska Avalanche Information Center, Inc.
Anchorage Loussac Public Library

Whether you ride the Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK, snowmobile reviewers pick of the year for mountain sleds, or the most improved Arctic Cat M8000, or how about the Ski Doo XM Summit or mighty four-stroke Yamaha M-TX-LE, powder riding in the mountains is the stuff snowmachiners dream and drool over. 

AAIC Education Director Sarah Carter helps students practice locating and recovering a victim during a training drill. 

But before you hit the slopes or the trails, remember that November is Avalanche Awareness Education month. Brenda Smart, Patsy Coyne, and Janet Tally all have one thing in common: They are mothers who lost a child in an avalanche in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. 

And they are not alone. There have been eight fatalities in Hatcher Pass from avalanches in the past 10 years. Alaska has had 49 people lost in snow slides since 2000. That’s an average of about four people every year. There were six fatalities during the 2015-2016 season. 

Sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends… All people that set out for a fun day of snow adventures and never got to come home to ride another day.

It was 30 years ago when I lost my husband, Bruce, after a frozen slope collapsed and buried him. He died from severe trauma and the only thing that likely could have saved his life was more awareness and education about the potential hazards. 

When my children grew to be teenagers and were riding snowmachines, skiing and boarding in the mountains around Alaska from Hatcher Pass to Thompson Pass, I realized that it was often just a lack of knowledge that killed people in avalanches. They were all just in the wrong place at the right time. 

Since 2004, I have been on a mission to help make snow safety knowledge common place and available to everyone. Today I serve as the director of the Alaska Avalanche Information Center, working every day to get this information out to the public. Thanks to a grant from the Alaska Community Foundation, we now have a website where you’ll find a wealth of information on snow and weather conditions. You’ll also find routinely updated forecasts, observations, safety tips and training opportunities. 

Using an avalanche transceiver to search for a buried victim. 

On Saturday, November 5th you can also take part in the annual Snow Fest! It’s a day of free educational training, gear demonstrations, new equipment displays, video premieres and all things snow from 11am to 3pm at the Anchorage Loussac Public Library.

This program is made possible thanks to support from AARP Alaska, the Alaska Avalanche Information Center, the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, the Alaska Avalanche School and a host of snowmobile vendors, sport shops and more. 

A group of riders take time to practice avalanche rescue at Arctic Man.

This winter, start your season out right by tuning up on your mountain travel skills, checking out the new technology available, and learning everything you can to avoid having your mother, wife, husband and friends endure the toughest of lessons in life. Take the time to get educated so you can live to ride another day. 

Learn more at or call 907-255-2242.