Free avalanche safety training will be offered to snowmobilers every Friday and Saturday in Cooke City.
The classes, which will begin on Nov. 24 and continue through March 10, 2018, are sponsored by Montana State Parks in partnership with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
Every Friday and Saturday throughout the season, GNFAC instructors will present lecture and field instruction classes to teach snowmobilers the fundamentals of avalanche safety before they ride in the backcountry.
“Avalanche education saves lives,” said Doug Chabot, director of the avalanche center. “Cooke City has more snowmobiler avalanche fatalities than any other piece of real estate in the country. Our goal is to educate riders on current avalanche conditions and train them in avalanche rescue, so they are prepared when an avalanche happens.”
The Friday evening lectures cover current avalanche conditions, safe riding techniques, essential gear, avalanche awareness and identification of avalanche terrain. The lectures are held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Cooke City Chamber of Commerce building, located at 206 W. Main St.
The Saturday field training offers snowmobilers the opportunity to gain experience in avalanche rescue techniques in the field. Instructors will set up rescue scenarios for riders to practice using their avalanche beacon, shovel and probe.
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“If you are buried in a slide you have an 80 percent chance of surviving if you are dug up in 10 minutes,” Chabot said. “That falls to below 40 percent at 12 minutes and 20 percent survival in 30 minutes. The only way to get dug up quickly is to have a trained partner.”
Avalanche rescue practice is available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be located at a sled-accessible location on the Lulu Pass Road. The exact location will be announced during the Friday evening lecture. Attendance of both Friday and Saturday classes is recommended, but not required.
This season is the second year the free avalanche safety training will be offered in Cooke City. During the program’s inaugural season in 2016-17, 388 students received training, and no snowmobile-triggered avalanches were recorded in the Cooke City area.
Cooke City Avalanche Training is funded by the GNFAC and the Upper Yellowstone Snowmobile Club through the Montana State Parks Snowmobile Grant Program. While the classes are geared toward snowmobilers, skiers and other backcountry recreationists are welcome to attend.