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Backcountry business booms in bad year for avalanches

Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 20:38:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Backcountry winter sports are booming in Utah at a time when the backcountry is particularly dangerous.

Nikki Champion, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center, has seen evidence of the increase in activity firsthand.

READ: Avalanche danger high in most of Utah's mountains; 18 avalanches triggered over the weekend

“We've seen every single avalanche class fill almost as soon as we opened it, and we're also seeing a lot more users access our website,” said Champion.

The numbers are unprecedented at the Avalanche Center. Champion reports they’ve added extra classes to try to meet demand and at one point had to shut down the website temporarily as it was starting to crash due to the increased visits.

It’s a trend obvious with retailers and manufacturers as well, says Nick Sargent, the president of Snowsports Industries America, a trade group based in Park City.

WATCH: Busy backcountry ski season challenged by avalanche danger

“Anecdotally, we saw a 110 percent increase in backcountry and uphill product,” said Sargent.

Sargent called it a blessing and a curse.

In a tough year for retail, any increased sales are welcome. But he and other outdoor enthusiasts in the industry are worried the new participants may not seek the appropriate training and information.