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Flanked by his friends Logan Baker (left) and Jahson Sanderson, Xander McGill lists the Know Before You Go steps during an avalanche safety presentation in Quincy on Feb. 21. His efforts earned him a prize donated by Skull Candy. Photo by Ingrid Burke

Students learn avalanche safety

In the wake of the recent avalanche death of Blairsden resident Cole Comstock, Plumas Charter School students learned about avalanche awareness and backcountry safety during lively back-to-back presentations Feb. 21.

Through support from the nonprofit Nickolay Dodov Foundation, avalanche educator Richard Bothwell spoke to Quincy Learning Center students at the West End Theatre in the morning, and Indian Valley Academy students at the Indian Valley Museum in the afternoon. Both events were free and open to the public as well.

PCS Outdoor Education Coordinator Courtney Gomola arranged for the presentations in support of her outdoor adventure classes, in which she said she encourages students to get out and enjoy Plumas County’s natural landscapes safely.

Bothwell used videos and education materials from the nonprofit Know Before You Go program and encouraged audience members to engage and ask questions. He taught students about the science of avalanches, how to recognize avalanche signs, the basics of avalanche preparedness and backcountry safety.

At the end of the presentation, students who answered quiz questions correctly won electronic accessories donated by Skull Candy.

Avalanche safety

Avalanches occur anywhere there are both snow and mountains, said Bothwell, and snow on any slope steeper than 30 degrees can slide under the right conditions. Because of this, he assured students that avalanche training is relevant for not just skiers and snowboarders, but also sledders, snowshoers and anyone who lives in snowy, mountainous areas.

Bothwell emphasized the importance of bringing friends on backcountry expeditions. He also encouraged students to speak up if they see a potentially dangerous situation, even if others insist that it is safe.

He introduced the basic avalanche rescue equipment — beacon, probe and shovel — but pointed out that regular in-depth training is needed to properly use it. Feather River College offers avalanche safety courses, which Bothwell helps teach, for those ready to gain that knowledge.

More information about avalanches and avalanche safety is available at avalanche.org and kbyg.org.

Nickolay Dodov Foundation

Natalia Dodova and Alex Dodov founded the nonprofit Nickolay Dodov Foundation after the death of their son Nickolay, a professional snowboarder, in an avalanche in Alaska in 2012. By providing free avalanche training to schools and ski/snowboard teams throughout the region, the foundation aims to “encourage youth and enthusiasts of all ages to safely explore the beauty of the mountains.”

Natalia and Alex attended Plumas County’s presentations, and shared their passion for outdoor activities and mountain life.

Originally from Bulgaria, they now live in Bear Valley. Learn more and donate at nickolaydodovfoundation.com.

Plumas Charter School serves students from across Plumas and adjacent counties. More information is available at plumascharterschool.org or by calling 283-3851.

Ingrid Burke is the public relations specialist for Plumas Charter School.

Know Before You Go steps

Get the gear

Always carry a transceiver, probe, and shovel in the backcountry to help you find a buried partner and be found.

Get the training

Take an avalanche class, learn first aid and keep your skills current. (Learn more about classes at avalanche.org/avalanche-courses/.)

Get the forecast

Before heading out, view the local avalanche forecast (avalanche.org), look at maps, talk to others, and make a plan.

Get the picture

Be aware of avalanche risk indicators, know the features around you (both natural and constructed), pay attention to changing conditions and assess your group’s dynamics.

Get out of harm’s way

Avoid terrain traps, traverse or ride slopes one at a time, don’t stop in risky areas, and stay in communication.

Source: kbyg.org.

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