Last Saturday, November 9, more than 150 skiers and snow enthusiasts converged on North Conway, N.H. for the third edition of the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop (ESAW). Having doubled enrollment since its inception, the full-day event brought in presentations from some of the most revered avalanche experts in the country. “This third year seems to be the breakthrough,” says Chris Joosen, lead snow ranger on Mt. Washington, of the turnout.
Along with Kyle Tyler, Joosen organized ESAW, modeling the event after the International Snow Science Workshop, to present practical yet academic snow science information to backcountry users of varying skill sets. From pertinent weather observation models on local Mt. Washington to an overview of decision-making patterns of the ridges of Bridger Bowl, Montana, the symposium gathered a mosaic of discussions tailored to the varied audience.
Presentations included an avalanche terrain overview of Mt. Katahdin’s steeps by storied climber and SAR veteran Bob Baribeau. Tim Brown from AIARE held an overview of “the avalanche problem”; Julie LeBlanc of the Haute Gaspesie Avalanche Center explained avalanche-forecasting program in Quebec’s Chic-Choc Mountains; and Dale Atkins, American Avalanche Association President, displayed the Recco system, a company of which he is also the president. In all, there were 11 presentations.
While avalanche professionals were well represented, a younger cadre, some of whom were recipients of White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund Scholarships, also attended ESAW. The Avalanche Education Fund Scholarship is the workshop’s primary benefactor, and is aimed at teaching higher level avalanche information and field skills to tomorrow’s guides, patrollers and backcountry skiers.
“I was particularly impressed by some of our [scholarship supported] students,” Joosen says. “We had a group of six middle school kids who made up the Pioneer Robotics Team, focusing on avalanche safety systems and personal protection equipment.”
Says AIARE educator and local guide David Lottmann, “I’m very excited for how this event is increasing public awareness about avalanche education and look forward to it continuing to grow.”
Next year’s Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop will be held at Theater in the Wood, Intervale, N.H. on November 7 and 8. For more information, visit esaw.org.