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Skiers learn lessons from Thursday’s avalanche deaths

Richard Napier, who owns Idaho Mountain Tracking in Idaho Falls, says nothing quite parallels the joys of backcountry skiing.

“Generally you’re skiing untracked powder, most of the time,” said Napier.

But before you head off the ski trails, consider the risks.

“When you’re within bounds of a ski area, the avalanches have been controlled by the ski patrol. Once you go out of bounds then it’s a whole different story,” Napier said.

Skier Katie Thomas says before skiing, she always takes the time to check snow conditions.

“If there’s any sheets of ice with snow on top of that you can definitely have avalanche danger,” said Thomas.

Also, be sure to avoid steep slopes.

“Most avalanches occur between 30 and 45 degree slope angles, the bulk of them between 35 and 40 degrees,” said Napier.

Napier says yesterday’s avalanches may have been caused by the very people they killed.

“They get on a slope, a snow slop that’s been loaded and they trigger the avalanche and then they get buried,” he said. “50 percent of them die in the first 30 minutes.”

Napier says if you do go out of bounds, remember to take a shovel with you so you can try and dig yourself out of any bad situation.

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