Avalanche danger: 'We are going to have our ski patrol out there testing'

Avalanche danger: 'We are going to have our ski patrol out there testing' »Play Video
Part of an online tutorial on Avalanche.org. The site can also help you find accredited avalanche safety courses where you live.

EUGENE, Ore. - After a late start to the season, skiers are eager to hit the slopes.

"You got deep snow, fresh powder, awesome skiing conditions," said Leif Williams with Hoodoo Ski Area.

But when there's an icy layer underneath an unconsolidated, loose layer of snow, disaster can strike.

"Some of these really cold snow events that we have had recently with rain on top has created some unconsolidated layers in the snow pack," said Thomas Snyder, Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Avalanches have claimed lives of 7 backcountry skiers this year in Idaho, Colorado and the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon.

None of the skier deaths happened inside a developed ski area.

But with an avalanche warning for Mount Hood and the Cascades, ski patrols are on high alert.

"We are going to have our ski patrol out there testing some of those steeper pitched areas," said Williams with Hoodoo.

But in the backcountry, there isn't a ski patrol.

The National Weather Service urged skiers to stay out of the backcountry on Tuesday and "expect elevated avalanche danger to persist through the rest of the week."

That's why it's so important to learn avalanche safety and carry safety gear.

More and more backcountry skiers are using an airbag backpack in case of an avalanche. Pull the lever, and the backpack deploys a giant airbag to help lift you as the wall of snow comes down around you.

"They have some sort of nitrogen propellant gas that basically expands balloons or airbags to the side of you. It can help with flotation," said Philip Costaschuck with Backcountry Gear.

To help fellow skiers locate an avalanche victim, skiers also carry avalanche beacons.

"The signal that I am transmitting is going to allow you to find me," Costaschuck said.