Utah Avalanche Center Continues to Administer Avalanche Awareness Through Gnarly Season


Kara Kelco, Reporter

The Utah Avalanche Center has been teaching the Know Before You Go Avalanche Awareness Program in order to teach kids and adults how to stay safe in the mountains. 


Every season, Park City is filled with skiers and boarders eager to hit the slopes. However, with a season like this, avalanches are very popular making the backcountry dangerous. 


About “90% of avalanches are triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s group,” as stated in the KBYG presentation. If people become more aware of avalanches, it may help people avoid them, as well as be able to help someone else if they get buried. 


The free awareness program is presented all throughout the winter season to anyone and everyone in hopes of spreading as much awareness and preventing as many avalanche-related fatalities as possible.


Created by the Utah Avalanche Center, KBYG is a non-profit that is supported by donations and fundraising events that pay for the creation of content, slideshows, work on the website, and for instructors to present the program. 


McKinley Talty is an intern at the UAC and the coordinator/an occasional event host of the KBYG Avalanche Awareness Program.

 “[The Utah Avalanche Center has] one of the best centers in the US. So I jumped at the opportunity to come down and work for them. I mean, everyone knows who they are and they’re like a staple in the US.” said Tally.


Talty continued by explaining “The program is presented all over Utah, in several states, and is rumored of even having some “international attention.” 


Due to COVID-19, the program has been unable to hold its usual interactive in-person events. Regardless, they have been able to reach out to an incredible amount of people through online presentations via Zoom. 


“This year it seems like a lot of people have been interested in the talks. This past month because it’sbeen such a tragic month. [One] week for instance we had a talk, every single day. I think for this month in total we’ve had 14 talks.” Said Talty.

The Know Before You Go Program is strictly an awareness program and it is recommended for backcountry skiers and snowboarders to take formal avalanche courses or other programs that teach people how to properly use the equipment.


“We’re just trying to make people aware that the avalanche danger exists,” said Talty.


A lot of people are unaware of avalanches and their danger, especially tourists who travel to Park City in hopes of getting to ski and snowboard on fresh snow.


“The good thing about going virtual this year was that we were able to get some of our bigger partner companies like backcountry.com, and [other companies] like that to host these talks on their Instagram, … so they have a way larger reach that we do at the UAC.” Said Talty.


Talty hopes that more people outside of Utah including tourists were able to attend presentations than in previous years due to the program being completely virtual, allowing participants to be able to attend from places other than Utah.


The KBYG webpage has an e-Learning option of the Avalanche Awareness Program for those unable to attend presentations or who prefer to go through the program on their own.


People have different learning styles and daily schedules which is why both forms of the program are available however, “The more information you have the better,” said Talty, which is why he recommends that people join a live presentation along with going through the e-Learning form of the program as well. 


Talty emphasized, “I think it’s really important to get out especially to the youth as they’re just getting into the sport, and especially in an area like Park City where the mountains are right there.”


“The main thing of advice that I always try to give is that the mountains are always going to be there. And a season like this here Utah where conditions have been so dangerous. You know, it might just be time to write off all your objectives for later seasons … those mountains aren’t going anywhere.” Said Talty.


Visit the KBYG webpage to start the e-Learning Avalanche Awareness Program or contact the Utah Avalanche Center to find or schedule upcoming presentations.


In the event of an avalanche, call 911 immediately.

For Recorded Avalanche Information from UAC Call: 888-999-4019

Non-profit Utah Avalanche Center Phone: 801-365-5522