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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Know before you go: Avalanche education vital for all winter recreationists

Jack Sutter, left, Eric DeRosa and Keith Robine discuss the upcoming terrain on Feb. 4, 2019, during an avalanche training course in B.C. backcountry near Kootenay Pass. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Jack Sutter, left, Eric DeRosa and Keith Robine discuss the upcoming terrain on Feb. 4, 2019, during an avalanche training course in B.C. backcountry near Kootenay Pass. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)

All the high-tech gear in the world might not save your life in an avalanche.

“The gear doesn’t do much good without the proper education,” said Kevin Dombrock, a skiing guide and American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education instructor in Spokane. “There is no replacement for good education.”

Instead, Dombrock recommends anyone who is skiing off groomed runs learn at least the basics of how to avoid avalanches. For skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowbikers and snowshoers who travel into the side- or backcountry, a level 1 avalanche course, which costs about $350, should be the least they do.

“We call it a lifelong apprenticeship with the snow,” he said. “None of us know it all. Professionals included. We’re learning new things every day.”

There are a number of avalanche education options in the area.

For the dedicated resort skier, who likes to go off the groomers, consider a free avalanche awareness course. For anyone venturing out of a resort, consider taking a course through the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center, the Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education center or an AIARE course.

The importance of that education and awareness was only driven home by the deadly inbound avalanche at Silver Mountain on Tuesday.

“My heart goes out to everyone involved,” Dombrock said. “If there could be a silver lining in an event like this, hopefully it is an opportunity for people to understand the importance of awareness a little more.”

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