Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado wrapped up its 11th Annual Beacon Bowl and Avalanche Awareness Day on Saturday with an apres-ski fundraiser to benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). Two days of related events raised more than $10,000 primarily through a raffle and auctions of donated items from companies such as Ski Logik, Icelantic, and Backcountry Access (BCA). New Belgium Brewing provided a limited-edition bicycle-- inspired by its Fat Tire Amber Ale logo-- that is available only to employees or through such charity functions. The fundraising total surpassed last year's mark of $7,600.
"The CAIC is an integral part of what we do on a daily basis," said Tony Cammarata, director of the ski patrol of Arapahoe Basin. "They provide forecasts for not only weather, but avalanche forecasts for the backcountry that surrounds our ski area. We use this information to extrapolate a lot about what we might find in the ski area. They give us a great baseline of what they think we're going to have snow, wind and avalanche-wise. It's just one of the best sources of information about snow and weather that is out there."
About 35 backcountry enthusiasts participated earlier on the snowy Saturday afternoon in the Beacon Bowl. Divided into separate contests for professional ski patrollers and recreational entrants, the competitors were timed in rounds to find and probe for buried packs with transmitting avalanche beacons. Along with patrollers from Arapahoe Basin, professionals from nearby Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Resort also competed. Cammarata won the professional division. Sam Simon of Breckenridge finished second and Brian York of A-Basin took third. Justin Laughney, Matt Lundy, and Jeremy Dobish were the top three finishers, respectively, in the recreational division.
Also on Saturday afternoon, the A-Basin ski patrol gave guests an inside look at the training regimen used for its five avalanche search dogs, including three young dogs working toward certification. A few guests even had an opportunity to be “buried” in different small snow caves prepared by the patrol as a test for the dogs. The patrollers explained that the training is designed so the dogs perceive the search-and-rescue process as a playful game.
"A lot of times, the dogs are P.R. until we really need them," said Cammarata about the canines that have their own set of trading cards. "For the guys especially that spend countless hours digging holes and burying people to train the dogs, this is a way for them to show off and highlight the skills."
For the first time in conjunction with the event, the ski area hosted a companion rescue workshop on Friday. Receiving instruction from representatives of the CAIC, Arapahoe Basin and other patrols such as Vail and Copper Mountain, 37 workshop students honed their skills with technique tips for shoveling, beacon use, and other aspects of backcountry self-rescue.