Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center Shutting Down Forecasting

Yesterday, Idaho went under a stay-at-home order. What this unfortunately means is an end of the season for the Avalanche Center. There will be no Silver Valley advisory tomorrow (3/27) and it will be the last one for the Kootenais. We will be following the guidance of the State of Idaho as well as other avalanche centers where stay-at-home orders are in effect. The orders are clear for Washington, Montana, and Idaho: to the maximum extent possible, individuals should stay at home.  Outdoor activity NEAR YOUR HOME is allowed, but residents are encouraged to keep distance of 6-feet from others not in their household. Near your home is stressed in the order. Loading up our vehicles and driving across town, across County lines, or across one or even two state lines is not considered near your home. Even though as an avalanche center we firmly believe in the value of backcountry travel, it is not an essential activity that outweighs the importance of slowing the spread of the virus. So at this time we are asking people not to go to the backcountry. Please follow our states orders, and stay at home.

We know many of you might not agree with this and don’t like it. We are all feeling a little like the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Skiing, splitboarding, and snowmobiling are activities that keep us healthy and sane. We know many of you think that you are able to mitigate your own risk in the backcountry so that you won’t be putting undo stress on the healthcare system.  But things happen that are beyond our control and this is no longer about mitigating our own personal backcountry safety, this is mitigating a risk that is much bigger. We need to do our part by staying at home.

Say for example, I decide to go out snowmobiling to go skiing. I have a great day, I distance myself from others, I dial it back and stay out of avalanche terrain. I feel that I am doing a good job, I’m not a stress on the system. On the way back to my vehicle I come across another person who has blown a track. Because I don’t want to put pressure on search and rescue, I give them a ride to their truck because they are too far to walk and would have to spend the night in the woods, which wouldn’t have left me with a very clear conscience if I’d left them there.  We are a backcountry community; we help each other out. This person doesn’t know it, but they have coronavirus, and riding double definitely puts us closer than 6ft apart.  Since symptoms don’t onset right away, when I get home I unknowingly give it to my husband and all of a sudden we have one less person working in our emergency department when he starts showing symptoms. This is just one example of something that could happen that we weren’t planning on. If you’ve been into backcountry sports for as many years as I have, you know that these occurrences will happen and they won’t be predictable for all the planning in the world.  There are many factors out of our control right now and it might seem overwhelming, but one we do have control over is staying out of the backcountry and staying home. As an Avalanche Center, we are asking you to not go in the backcountry and respect the stay at home orders.

Thanks you everyone for a great season and we will see everyone in the mountains next winter. IPAC would like to thank the Friends of IPAC for helping us with our Level 1 classes this year as well as a number of great fundrasing events.  We really appreciate the help and could not run at this level without them.  Thanks to Idaho Parks and Recreation for partnering with us on avalanche education classes.  Thank you to Matchwood Brewing for hosting the monthly pitchats, which were a big success.  Thank you to the Alpine Shop in Sandpoint for providing gear and expertise.  Thanks to all of those who sent in observations, including weekday observations from Tom Eddy of Schweitzer Mountain and the observations from the ski patrol at Silver Mountain and Lookout.  Thank you to Schweitzer Mountain, Silver Mountain, and Lookout Ski Area for hosting our avalanche classes.  Thank you to Schweitzer and Silver Ski Patrol for helping us teach avalanche classes.  Thanks to Panhandle Backcountry for partnering in avalanche safety and helping with the Friends Group.  Thanks to everyone who attended our avalanche classes and thanks to those who became members.  We really have a great network here and we hope to keep it going.  Have a great spring and summer and we'll see you next winter. 

Melissa Hendrickson, Forecaster

7th Doug Abromeit Avalanche Scholarship Winners.

Congratulations to Emma Hall and Neva Reseska, THE RECIPIENTS OF THE 7th ANNUAL, 2020 DOUG ABROMEIT AVALANCHE SCHOLARSHIP!  IPAC will send Emma and Neva to an IPAC LEVEL 1 AVY CLASS IN 2021 .  NICE GOING GIRLS!

Transceiver Sundays at Schweitzer

Schweitzer ski patrol is encouraging and offering weekly free "Transceiver Sundays" (clock tower at 10:00 a.m.) to all interested public with two permanent practice areas and one more difficult challenge that is on a less regular basis. All they ask is that the public covers up their tracks and if practicing digging techniques, please replace your divot. This is a great way to keep on your A game for those venturing out of bounds.