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The B.A.S.I.C.S. of Avalanche Awareness

The idea for the five-part B.A.S.I.C.S. series hit J.T. Holmes after a friend of his died who shouldn't have. "This person simply made a bad choice, chose an objective on a mountain that was completely above his skill set," says Holmes. "He was doomed before even saying, Ready, set, go. The idea to take action and found the B.A.S.I.C.S. program spurred from wanting to prevent those accidents which can be avoided."

Holmes met with Adam Baillargeon and Roy Tuscany of the High Fives Foundation. Tuscany was an athlete who had dreams of becoming a professional skier before a serious spinal cord injury altered his plans. After recovering, he formed High Fives to raise money and support for other athletes who were injured while training for winter action sports.

At the meeting between the three men, Baillargeon came up with the acronym B.A.S.I.C.S., which stands for Be Aware and Safe In Crazy Situations. "Our goal is not to avoid the crazy, but to be more prepared for it," says Holmes. "I wanted people to realize that there is a lot of preparation behind the scenes going on and I wanted to encourage people to use their heads, at least just a little bit. That can go a long way."

The first B.A.S.I.C.S. episode featured five skiers talking candidly about big mistakes they made that led to life-altering injuries. The second video, embedded above, tackles avalanche safety. In 2012, 44 people died in avalanches, including a number of high-profile skiers.

The videos are just one way High Fives is trying to spread the word. They also visit elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools—and host avalanche clinics. You can watch the video series at and find out about upcoming events at

The third video in the series will be released next year and will focus on helmet safety and prevention.

B.A.S.I.C.S. released the following supplemental information with the avalanche safety video:

Key things to know to enjoy the backcountry and come home safe:
1. Get educated. Learn about avalanche safety by taking a class.
2. Know your skills, know your surroundings. Check out forecasts for weather and conditions before you go.
3. Have the proper equipment and know how to use it (avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel, and airbag).
4. Never travel alone. Always ride with partners in a group and have a plan.
5. If you don't feel comfortable, don't go. There is always tomorrow when using good judgment.

Key websites:
American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (
Avalanche.Org (
Forest Service National Avalanche Center (
National Snow and Ice Data Center (
Back Country Access (BCA) Float Airbags and Safety Equipment (

—Joe Spring

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