Disproving Avalanche Myths and The South American Beacon Project:
House Rider Alex Taran Sets Out to Make a Difference
Avalanches do not affect people in Chile*. “Gringa no tenemos avalanchas en Chile…” a group of my friends told me before they dropped into a path without avalanche gear, but with 50cms of fresh snow. (*Later that year, in that same path, an avalanche closed the road for 3 days and, in a separate incident, killed a young man). When something like an avalanche happens it may be deceiving. It is actually not an avalanche*. (*One Patagonian avalanche related death was blamed on “glacial movement” while another death outside of a well known ski area was not deemed an avalanche, rather just a “delizamento de nieve (loose snow sliding)”…. wait isn’t that an avalanche?) Avalanches happen but don’t affect us *(*one patroller reassured me not to worry, all the avalanches in their area happen between 2-6 am, no one is around to get caught). PHEW!
The South American Beacon Project is a movement we started in 2010. We identified two things missing in Chile: an atmosphere where the need for avalanche education is recognized and providing rescue tools for workers. The lack of proper equipment is not due to Chileean Resorts being too poor to purchase rescue tools; quite the opposite. Discussions about avalanches are not present anywhere near mainstream culture. It is just not accepted. Avalanches are a myth. That’s where The South American Beacon Project comes in.
The SABP reuses fully functioning beacons after testing for distances (search and send) as well as flux line drift. These beacons go into the hands of workers following an introductory class on basic avalanche mechanics and partner rescue. We also facilitate outreach avalanche education through presentations, as many avalanche centers in North America do, as well as more detailed beacon classes. Since The SABP was founded we have placed over 160 beacons and taught students in 21 communities in Chile and Argentina.
But this is only the beginning. This year we are working on launching the closest thing to an avalanche center that Chile has ever seen. We are building a website where people find the majority of classes available, a history of accidents, current snow observations, and weather links. We are trying to change this atmosphere, disproving the myths through outreach and resource distribution.
This is not only our movement. This is a movement for everyone in the ski community. The key is our sense of community and togetherness. Whether you’re a skier in the northern or southern hemisphere, Europe or Asia, a beginner or an expert, we are all human and we all share the love for this sport and lifestyle. If you have an interest in getting involved, disproving these myths, and sharing this love please visit our website: WWW.SOUTHAMERICANBEACONPROJECT.COM. See you in the mountains!
By: Alex Taran