Getting up at 4 am, putting on strange plastic footwear, and hiking uphill through a blinding snowstorm might not be everyone’s idea of a good time. However, for thousands of people around the Lake Tahoe and Truckee area, this is, quite literally, the best way to spend a Saturday morning. It’s a well-known truism that more snow equals more fun. But the arrival of new snow brings with it new hazards, in the form of avalanches. So, what’s a backcountry enthusiast to do? Well, for more and more people, it means turning to the resources at the Sierra Avalanche Center.
In fact, despite disappointing snow years for the past few years, the Sierra Avalanche Center has seen usage of its site increase by about twenty percent each year for the past five years. On any given day about 3,100 people visit the site, with 60,000 unique visitors each season. This translates to roughly 500,000 page views per year. An astounding number, especially given that the site, and the entire operation, are funded almost entirely by community support. Given this high level of usage, you can rest assured that, if you live in the greater Tahoe area, either you or someone you know takes advantage of this wonderful resource.
Every day, well before most people have even started to stir from their slumber, this team of forecasters and observers heads into work and analyzes the data compiled overnight. This data is then compiled into a daily advisory for use in the greater Tahoe area, which is then disseminated via the website. After the daily forecast and advisory is published, these intrepid souls head out into the snowy landscape to dig pits, take pictures, and record observations for further analysis.
Because of its growing popularity and importance to the community, the SAC is actually looking to hire a third, full-time, forecaster for the upcoming season.
The non-profit SAC is made up of two separate branches, an operational arm, as well as a fund-raising and support arm. The operational arm consists of two forest service avalanche forecasters, two professional observers, as well as a forest service supervisor. A volunteer board of directors and an executive director oversee things on the other side, ensuring that the SAC can continue to provide a high level of service to those in the community.
In addition to the daily advisory, the Sierra Avalanche Center also functions as a hub for all types of avalanche education in the area, ongoing avalanche education for professionals and novices alike, as well as just being a fantastic resource for anyone looking to get out into the backcountry, and wanting to do so in a safe and responsible manner.
Despite the fact that the SAC remains an incredibly valuable resource for all manner of backcountry enthusiasts, from skiers to hunters, it still depends almost entirely on funding from the community and people like you. To help out with this important function Granite Chief Ski & Mountain Shop will be hosting a fundraiser on Friday, November 20th, right here in Truckee. Come on down to drink some beer, eat a brat, and hey, maybe win a sweet avalanche airbag!