The other day was my first ski day of the 2020–2021 season. As usual I was at Loveland Ski Area, where I got my start in the snow business. This season it felt kind of strange with all the mandatory mask-up rules. Opening day of the ski season has usually felt like the first day of high school to me, where you caught-up with all your old friends about what each of you had done over the summer. But this season it is hard to recognize old friends with masks on and while social distancing.
As I was surveying the new lift line set-up, I noticed a guy taking a picture of my skis. I walked over and asked if I could help him. All of a sudden he said, “Hi Halsted, its Seb!” (aka: Sebastien Barlerin = Canadian heliski guide friend and A3 pro member. He saw a sticker on my skis.) In an instant we were getting caught up on what each of us have been doing and other friends. It is true that in our “business” we are a community of friends and coworkers. Running into Seb I did not feel lonely behind my mask.
In this issue of TAR, we are spotlighting profiles of two long time A3 pro members who represent how knowledgeable and experienced our A3 membership is. Becs Hodgetts and Mike Ferrari have both been in the snow safety business for many years and each has served on the A3 board of directors; Becs was the Rockies Rep and Mike was the Treasurer. I have not seen either of them face-to-face in quite a while. But I know if I ran into either one on the street or ski area, we would be caught up in no time.
Speaking of old friends, recently Mark Mueller of the CAIC retired after a long and distinguished career. I had worked at CAIC with Mark and also when he was Executive Director of A3. When CAIC posted on Facebook about Mark’s retirement, I knew the photos I wanted to post, (nothing too embarrassing), of our days at CAIC. You may retire from the “business,” but you are still a part of our community. That is how it should always be.
The pandemic has taken in-person gatherings away from the avalanche community with events like ISSW and SAWs being shifted to primarily virtual online events. I have missed getting to see old friends and making new ones at these events. These in-person meetings are more than just education meetings, but where trip reports, research, and adventures are discussed and plotted over beers. Sharing a beer on Zoom is not the same as in person.
Dan Kaveney, (our A3 executive director) and I have really been pushing for building and maintaining our avalanche community during this pandemic. If you have not, please check out the online version of TAR and join in on the A3 webinars. If you cannot afford to renew your A3 membership now, because of the pandemic, call Dan, we will work something out. We want you to still be a member of our community.
Eventually things have got to get better, right? The virus will one day be in the rearview mirror, and we will get back to normal. In the meantime, take care of yourself and your friends. A3 has a unique membership community that I would like to see remain connected.
Thanks, Seb for a great day of skiing and reconnecting. —Halsted “Hacksaw” Morris
The A3 mission statement is: The American Avalanche Association promotes and supports professionalism and excellence in avalanche safety, education, and research in the United States.
As I see it a major part of professionalism is that our members treat other members and the general public in an ethical and respectful manner at all times.
Our country and the world has been through a lot with the Covid-19 virus, economic downturn, and the recent civil unrest. These events have affected all of us. The murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks have demonstrated that our world needs to correct how we treat each other. Gender discrimination and racism are not a part of being a professional.
Last fall A3 started the “inclusivity project” to recruit more women members before the current social events. Obviously, the inclusivity project needs to also include recruiting minority members, so this action will now be an official part of this project’s focus. Down the road I would also like to see more scholarship opportunities (i.e., for pro training, attending SAWs and ISSWs) for women and minorities, which will be another way to grow our inclusivity program. Thanks to Dan Kaveney, our executive director, A3 has weathered the economic downturn fairly well, although we still need to be conservative with our money. A3 is in a better financial position then a lot of other similar nonprofit associations. All of this is due to Dan’s extremely hard work and the outstanding loyalty of our sponsors. My deep and very sincere thanks go out to all of them.
Dan and the rest of the board have been looking for ways to serve our members without spending a lot of money. You will be hearing about several of these projects, such as webinars and the new digital TAR in the coming months. If you have any suggestions please drop me an email.
I have decided to run for A3 President again. There are several things that I want to work on and finish. Getting A3 through all these “crisis times” is one of them. The inclusivity project is another program that I would like to see get solidly on its feet.
Like many of you, I have no idea what this coming winter has in store for all of us, other than the prospect that many ski areas may not function at full capacity. As a result, there may be even more people heading into the backcountry and in need of formal avalanche safety education. The Avalanche.org website lists all of the Pro and Rec course providers; please pass this tidbit along to these new backcountry riders.
I wish all of you a bountiful, peaceful, and safe winter. —Halsted “Hacksaw” Morris
For many of us, the SAW season marks the beginning of winter. In a way it’s like the first day of high school, where you see your buddies and catch-up on what everyone did over the summer. The avalanche field is full of diverse and interesting folks.
This fall I attended CSAW here in Colorado and ran the A3 general membership meeting. It was great that we had a fair-sized turn out, considering that all those that attended had already sat through a day of presentations. Free beer always helps. Dan and the board are thinking about better ways to have the general membership meetings in the future. Maybe something online?
I was very pleased to announce at the meeting a new award that the A3 BOD’s approved prior to the meeting. As I had mentioned in my TAR column (38.1), Sue Ferguson was really one of the leaders in starting A3 as the editor of The Avalanche Review. In her honor we have created a new award. It’s fitting for this award to involve communicating information about snow and avalanches. The criteria for the award reads:
The Sue Ferguson Award recognizes individual(s) for their contribution in media communications about snow and avalanche sciences to the public and the American avalanche community. The awardee does not have to be a member of the A3 to receive this award. Generally, the Governing Board will initiate the nomination, but nominations may be submitted by A3 members in good standing.
At the general membership meeting, former A3 president John Stimberis nominated John Branch, author of the New York Times article series Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, for the award. The A3 BOD will be voting on this award at its next board meeting. Do you have other nominations or an opinion?
I was also pleased to hear some comments at CSAW about my previous column on inclusiveness in A3. It has been great to receive feedback and suggestions from many folks. You will be seeing more recognition of women in the avalanche industry with their profiles in TAR.
What more can we do as an organization? Perhaps we could offer more scholarships awarded to women of A3 for such things as ISSW & SAWs and maybe Pro Training Courses (PTC). As I mentioned before, Avalanche Diva night at ISSW will still receive support. If you have any other suggestions, PLEASE feel free to email me at HM1Hacksaw@gmail.com. I want to wish everyone a great and safe winter! —Halsted “Hacksaw” Morris
This summer I was reading in Climbing Magazine (June/July issue) an article about women mountain guides. I found the article to be fairly depressing in the low number of certified women mountain guides in the USA. It was equally embarrassing the way a number of these women have been treated in the “workplace.”
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person thinking about sexual discrimination/harassment in the guiding and avalanche industry. The Canadian Avalanche Journal in their July issue had an article (Diversity and Mental Health, by Rachel Reimer) about equality, inclusiveness, diversity, and mental health in the guiding and avalanche industry. These are important issues that we face and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I encourage you to read both articles.
Over the years I have met and worked with a number of female avalanche professionals: ski patrollers, ski patrol directors, heliski-guides, avalanche educators, highway avalanche forecasters, SAW/ISSW presenters, rescue dog handlers, S&R members, and A3 board members.
Ladies, did I leave anyone out? For me I have always enjoyed the interaction and felt mutual respect. I’m proud to call many of these women true friends. In the past A3 hasn’t tracked the demographics of male/female, so I can’t really tell you how many women members of A3 there are. We’ll work on this.
Sue Ferguson started The Avalanche Review in 1983 and served for five years as editor/ co-editor. She essentially helped start the American Association of Avalanche Professionals (AAAP), through The Avalanche Review. Looking back at our roots, it’s clear that women have played a major role in A3 and the avalanche industry. A3 needs to become more than just the “old-boys” avalanche club.
I have contacted several women A3 members and asked for their advice on what A3 can do to encourage more inclusion and respect for women in A3. The A3’s support of the “Avalanche Divas” events at ISSW has been one way, which shall continue. The Divas events have proved the value of mentorship programs. I’d like to see more scholarships to events like ISSW for women too. But we should do more and I’m open for suggestions you may have.
Last winter, I did an in-depth avalanche talk at the 48th Annual Rocky Mountain Lift Association (RMLA) in Grand Junction, CO. Over the years, I’ve taught courses for everyone from Boy Scouts to Homeland Security agents. I’ve been able to adapt my presentations to meet the audience’s needs. The avalanche industry is a wide and diverse group of people, and we serve a wide and diverse population. That’s why I feel everyone in our business deserves respect at all times.
A3 is the best American resource for keeping up with what’s happening in the avalanche world. We also want to be the primary resource for networking and mentoring in the American avalanche world, contributing to the professionalism of our members. This is why all snow professionals should be members of A3. A3 is your association, no matter what your gender. —Halsted “Hacksaw” Morris