Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, recently installed an avalanche beacon checkpoint near the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. This visitor center, located at the southwest entrance to the par,k is a popular starting point and trailhead for skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers accessing the park’s vast backcountry. I’ve been skiing Lassen for over 20 years and, on a recent visit, was surprised to see how much the use has increased over the years. Like many places, Lassen has seen a spike in winter backcountry recreation this season attributed to COVID restrictions on other activities.
The new beacon checker was installed with novice and expert winter backcountry recreationists in mind. This has been a 3-year administrative process to get this unit installed temporarily at the trailhead, and efforts are ongoing to facilitate a permanent installation.
In a recent phone conversation, Ron Martin, Ranger Operations Supervisor for Lassen NP, told me that the NPS is actively trying to reach out and inform backcountry users of the avalanche hazards in the Park. Ron said:
We are seeing a new cadre of winter backcountry users that we are concerned about. Backcountry ski and snowboard gear is selling out everywhere. New users with new equipment are showing up at the park, often in large groups with limited backcountry skills and experience. We are also seeing groups that have gotten together through social media sites such as Meet Up and Facebook. Often these groups are made up of people who do not know each other personally, and have had limited communication prior to going out into the backcountry together. The beacon checkers are one situational awareness tool that we are able to provide to these users.
— Ron Martin, Ranger Operations Supervisor, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in North-Eastern California and provides a wide variety of winter backcountry terrain for users of all skill levels. There is a misconception among backcountry users that Lassen is a “safe” place to play. It has excellent backcountry ski and snowboard opportunities, but those are accessed by complex avalanche terrain that requires the knowledge, skills, experience, and equipment to travel safely. For more information about avalanche hazards at Lassen, visit the park’s Avalanche Safety webpage.