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Part 4 of 7: Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center (CNFAIC) installs avalanche beacon station

Annual Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes benefits motorized community, rider safety 


The 2022 Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes provided seven grants ranging from $2,100 to $10,000 to national Avalanche Centers in support of motorized-focused projects and programs to improve motorized snow safety. 


This seven-part series details what’s happening at Avalanche Centers across the country and how the sweepstakes is strengthening the motorized snowsports community's connection with Avalanche Centers by supporting the work they are doing for snowmobilers, snowbikers and more.  


Lost Lake rider and avalanche (Photo by Rusty Allen)


Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center (CNFAIC) - Girdwood, Alaska 

Grant amount: $3,000


For the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center (CNFAIC) in Girdwood, Alaska, proceeds from this year’s $3,000 sweepstakes grant will install an educational “Are You Beeping?” avalanche beacon check station in the Lost Lake zone of the Chugach National Forest.


As the only avalanche center issuing daily forecasts in Southcentral Alaska, the most populous region in the state, the beacon check station is an important project for the local motorized community, said Wendy Wagner, CNFAIC director. 


It was a perfect fit,” said Wagner. “We're psyched to get it. We have actually two new employees, and their task is going to be putting it in, so that's all kind of coming to fruition.”


The high-use Lost Lake zone (about 100 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway) is extremely popular with snowmobilers and the site of several avalanche fatalities – the most recent in February 2020, said Friends of the Chugach Avalanche Center board member, Emma Walker, curriculum manager for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). 


“We have a ton of motorized users in our forecast area, and it’s really important to me that people get access to the information they need,” Walker said, adding that the project is a win-win. “It gives us credibility to the motorized community that the Avalanche Alliance is on board with us and all these other organizations in a nationwide effort.” 


The high-use Lost Lake zone is extremely popular with snowmobilers from Anchorage, Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su Valley and beyond. (Photo by Andrew Schauer)


In the past five seasons, seven snowmobilers have been caught in avalanches in the Alaska backcountry, of which four were killed. For a state with incredibly low population density, Walker and Wagner would like to see that number much closer to zero. 


To help address snowmobiler safety, the community has been asking for an educational beacon checker station at Lost Lake to allow for testing of avalanche beacons – a relatively simple device with an outsized impact on the user base, which is becoming more motorized than non-motorized and ever expanding. 


“I’m really proud that we have such a good connection with the motorized community, and we want to keep that ball rolling,” Wagner said. “And this is a big part of that. Just the pure motorized aspect of the grant and the focus is really cool for us because that’s such a big part of what we do on a daily basis.” 





When installed at the railhead, the checker and associated signage will raise awareness of the hazards of backcountry travel and the necessity of proper equipment and constant vigilance, while also helping prevent snowmobilers from leaving the trailhead without avalanche beacons or with avalanche beacons that are not transmitting correctly and prevent an avalanche beacon being left in search mode after an avalanche beacon check – effectively serving hundreds of users each season.


“This is going to help lots of our users that don’t have their beacon on. It just reminds you to be like, “Hey, guys, did you turn your beacon on?’” Walker said. “What really matters is literally saving lives. From a nonprofit perspective, we are really excited to let people know this is happening. We’re really excited for Alaska to have some love this year.” 



The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center will install an “Are You Beeping?” educational sign along with hard-wired solar power (due to the remote location) at the Snug Harbor Trailhead, which serves the Lost Lake Area. (Photo by Heather Thamm)


Chugach NF Avalanche Center



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The 2023 Avalanche Alliance Sweepstakes, which closes December 10, 2023, features a customized grand prize 2023 Polaris Patriot Boost RMK Khaos Slash 165 2.75" upgraded with a custom ArcticFX Graphics wrap, IceAge Performance Rails, HELLFIRE wheels, STRYKER A-Arms and ELEVATE spindles, SLP MoHawk skis, head, silencer and clutch kit, ZRP master cylinder cover, a lightweight rotor, titanium bolt kit and billet steering post, Pro Armor Bumpers, Exit shocks, Zbroz pull handle, Zbroz stirrups and Seat Concepts seat. First, second and third prizes include a Marlon Xplore PRO II sled deck, KLIM head-to-toe winter package, an Arctic Cat ZR 200 and an Ortovox safety package. 

Now in its fourth year, the Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes unites snowmobilers, snowbikers, manufacturers, avalanche centers and riders in a collective effort to endorse avalanche safety initiatives. Proceeds from the 2023 sweepstakes will be awarded to Avalanche Centers in support of motorized-focused programs with the goal to join forces and raise funds for avalanche education scholarships while expanding avalanche forecasts in popular motorized areas across the nation. 


For more info on the 2023 Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes, with donations starting at $25, visit:  https://www.tapkat.org/american-institute-for-avalanche-research-education/Wk1eqk





About Avalanche Alliance

Avalanche Alliance’s mission is to raise avalanche awareness and improve backcountry safety for motorized users. With a full spectrum of focuses ranging from sponsoring beacon check stations to supporting avalanche educators, Avalanche Alliance is at the forefront of avalanche safety improvement. For more information, visit avalanche-alliance.org.


About AIARE

AIARE was established in 1998 as a nonprofit educational organization to address the need for a nationally recognized curriculum for avalanche education in the USA. Since that time AIARE has developed research-based Professional and Recreational avalanche training for backcountry users in the United States, South America and Europe. AIARE’s Recreational Program is represented by over 115 course providers and650 AIARE-trained instructors; the Professional Program designs and instructs workplace safety training for professionals working in the avalanche industry. Through these programs, AIARE educates over 19,000 students annually. 


In 2017, AIARE created an official Motorized Program aimed to increase educational resources, participation and awareness in the motorized community. Working alongside experts in the snowmobile community, we’ve trained 48 snowmobilers to professional instructor standards, and separately 52 have received professional certificates to date. AIARE’s created motorized-specific training for recreational users is available across the US west.


AIARE’s partnership with the Live Large University (LLU) scholarship fund is intended to support motorized backcountry riders. While AIARE has a robust network of 115 providers in the US, currently 9 providers exclusively teach motorized-specific programming. The Live Large University scholarship’s goal is to increase the number of trained motorized professionals, improving the AIARE network's ability to  serve the motorized community. The LLU fund awards full and partial scholarships to students taking AIARE Motorized Recreational Courses, PRO 1, PRO 2 and Instructor Training Courses. For more information, visit avtraining.org.


About KLIM

KLIM Technical Riding Gear is a global leader in designing, developing, sourcing and distributing the most advanced powersports apparel for snowmobile, motorcycle and off-road riding. Utilizing the world’s most premium technologies in waterproof, breathable, durable and comfortable materials, KLIM offers gear for the most demanding riders. Driven by the continual feedback and input from dedicated test pilots and passionate customers, KLIM strives to do one thing above all – enhance the riding experience. For more information, visit KLIM.com.


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