UTAH (ABC4) -Ted Hesser is an adventure filmmaker and climbs mountains all over the world. he stresses the importance of checking an avalanche forecast before heading to the mountains. 

“I’ve encountered avalanches in the high mountains pretty much everywhere I go,” says Hesser. “When I’m off in high mountain ranges there’s no avalanche forecasting service. So it’s hard. You have to make those assessments yourself. but here… there are teams of people doing it for you. And you can read their reports. And that information is very valuable,” he adds.

Avalanches are one of the deadliest natural disasters in Utah, accounting for 52 percent of severe weather-related deaths, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. It’s not just extreme sports athletes in danger of encountering an avalanche. In fact, slopes steeper than 30 degrees are considered avalanche terrain. 

“Here in Utah, we have a lot of avalanche terrain that maybe the average user doesn’t know about. And that could be hikers, dog walkers, hunters, people that could be impacted by avalanche terrain,” says Nikki Champion, a forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center.

And if you’re heading to the backcountry, Champion says it’s important to take avalanche classes, learn the signs, and most importantly, know the risks before you go.

“If you’re at all worried about avalanches you don’t really understand avalanches, just stay out and out from underneath slopes over 30 degrees, and you can avoid the problem by avoiding the terrain.”The first week of December was designated as Avalanche Awareness Week by Utah State Legislators three years ago. 

Click here for avalanche education classes and programs happening this week.