Avalanche danger continues with spring conditions
SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS — As spring approaches the higher country in the surrounding mountains throughout the San Luis Valley, local snowmobile guide and avalanche trainer Matt Entz gave some insight into what people can do to be safe and have fun in the back country this season and seasons to come.
Entz is the owner of Mountain Skillz, an outdoor recreation guide and training operation out of South Fork. The company works with outdoor recreation enthusiasts, specifically snowmobilers, during the winter to help them learn how to enjoy winter recreation and to train them in avalanche protocol and safety devices.
“One thing everyone needs to understand is that conditions in the back country are always changing. They are always changing. We had perfect conditions for avalanche danger this spring with significant storms and heavy sustained wind. That is a perfect combination and warrants caution for anyone out in the back country,” said Entz.
One of the main things Entz does during his avalanche training courses is to make sure his students understand the importance of safety equipment. Anyone riding a snowmobile, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or enjoying any activity in high snow areas during the winter should wear a backpack with a shovel and avalanche probe and an avalanche beacon.
“Everyone should have a avalanche beacon on their body,” Entz said. “If an avalanche occurs, having a beacon could mean the difference between life and death. It doesn’t matter what skill level you are; wear a beacon. Secondly, always wear a backpack that has a shovel and an avalanche probe inside. This too could save your life. Most importantly, know how to operate the equipment. None of the equipment will do anyone any good if you don’t know how to use it. There is no replacement for on the snow training.”
Entz does private avalanche training workshops throughout the winter every year and during the summer continues his work with OHVs and trail stewardship in and around South Fork and Creede. As one of the area’s leading certified trainers, Entz also encourages outdoor recreationalists to utilize some of the free resources that are available.
Entz is part of the American Institute of Education and Training who offer a wide range of training and educational opportunities including avalanche safety. The institute and any certified trainer use standardized curriculum and then uses the information to create their own unique and valuable training courses.
“One of the most popular comments we get after someone has taken our course is that they can’t believe they waited this long to learn about avalanche safety. Don’t wait to understand why training is important, take a course and learn before going out,” Entz said.
One program that Entz would like the public to know about is the Avalanche Alliance. According to the bio, “The Avalanche Alliance mission is to raise avalanche awareness, facilitate training and improve backcountry safety for motorized users. With a full spectrum of focuses ranging from sponsoring beacon check stations to supporting avalanche training educators, Avalanche Alliance is at the forefront of avalanche safety improvement. The ultimate goal is to have all motorized backcountry users adequately trained.”
Anyone interested can donate before the end of March and enter for a chance to win a 2022 F-150 pickup and help with a significant cause in avalanche safety and training.
Other resources for avalanche education include the Colorado Avalanche Information Center which can be found on Facebook or through their website at [email protected]. The center offers some free training and education resources as well as up to date information on avalanche danger throughout the state. Avalanche.org is another great resource for the entire United States that has up to date information and educational resources as well.
“People who have questions can also contact us at Mountain Skillz,” Entz said. “We are always happy to answer questions or to help direct them to resources. Learn how to rescue someone, practice rescuing someone and hope you never have to, but be prepared in case you do. Being prepared for those situations is key. We can’t predict avalanche scenarios but being prepared is the best we can do. It is the difference between life and death.”