The San Juan Avalanche Project by Don Bachman-Silverton Mountain Journal–February 2001—Reposted because it’s such an important story in San Juan Mountain history–J.R.

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In early May of 1971, I was detailed to Silverton by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR),University of Colorado with a purchase order and instructions to locate a house of suitable size to base an office and living quarters for an avalanche research project.

That night I stopped at the Grand Imperial to listen in on a busy town of 850 people supported by the employment of two large mines, the Sunnyside and Idarado.  I wasn’t long on the bar stool before two fellows got up from a table and sandwiched me, right and left with the admonition from the big one on the right of  “We don’t allow no #$%&*! hippies in here”.  Well, I was fresh from the hippie-cowboy wars of Gunnison County, so not too concerned.  My hair and beard weren’t really that long and I was a bit older and sober, and after all was still running a bar of my own back in Crested Butte and felt at the time, those attributes along with carefully honed negotiation skills and perhaps friendly allies could save the day.  But, the bartender didn’t look too supportive of customer immunity, and for that matter did the rest of the crowded place.

Hmm, this wasn’t looking good, so I stuck out a hand and introduced myself to Clayton Hadden and Marvin Blackmore.  That worked for a minute.  Then I said I was in town to run the logistics for an avalanche project.  Thank goodness, the other guy at the table they’d just left hopped up and said to leave me alone:  he’s heard about this deal and I was probably ok.

That was the first of many times Tuffy Foster, Colorado Highway Maintenance Foreman for Red Mountain and Molas Passes, was to contribute to the well being of the San Juan Avalanche Project. Then Marvin bought me the first of many beers we shared over the years.

READ MORE : FULL ARTICLE IN SILVERTON MOUNTAIN JOURNAL

FOR A MORE SCHOLARLY VERSION READ THIS LINK:

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Betsy and Richard Armstrong visit Rancho Desperado on their way to Silverton.

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Workshop Details

Our full-day educational workshop features a diverse set of speakers that are at the forefront of avalanche education and research as well as distinguished members of the outdoor industry. These leading experts will cover topics from snow science in Silverton Schools to INSTAAR’s groundbreaking San Juan Avalanche Project, learning the types of Psychological First Aid tools and skills available for those who deal with exposure and trauma on the mountain. Presentations will benefit all experience levels and attendees will gain new tools and knowledge beneficial to traveling safely and having fun in the backcountry.

With arguably the most avalanche-prone snowpack in North America, notoriously steep terrain, extreme avalanche-prone highway corridors, and endless recreational opportunities for backcountry skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and snowmobilers, our region has long been a hotbed for the study of snow and avalanches. Hosting 4SAW in Silverton provides participants with an unparalleled opportunity to discuss pure and applied science together with the practical duties of avalanche safety and mitigation. Attendees will gain invaluable information from well-respected professionals that will build on past concepts and stimulate new ideas to further understanding of avalanches and backcountry terrain.

You’ll learn from and network with forecasters, patrollers, snow scientists, highway avalanche crews, search & rescue personnel, mountain guides, ski industry manufacturers, backcountry skiers & snowboarders, snowmobilers, avalanche researchers, and more.

2019 4SAW Speakers:

  • Betsy Armstrong and Richard Armstrong: University of Colorado and San Juan Avalanche Project
  • Starr Jamison: Survivors of Outdoor Adventures and Recovery (SOAR)
  • Sallie Barney: Silverton Public Schools
  • Jeff Deems: National Snow and Ice Data Center
  • Jake Hutchinson: American Avalanche Institute and American Avalanche Association
  • Jeff Davis: Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  • Andy Bond: Taos Avalanche Center
  • David Lovejoy: Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center
  • Ryan Howe: Telluride Mountain Guides
  • Chris Wilbur: Arthur I. Mears, P.E., Inc. & Wilbur Engineering, Inc.
  • Josh Jespersen: Journey Lines

 

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