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Cummings’ Hopes Steep Life Protocols Help Reduce Avalanche Accidents

Steep-skiing icon focuses on safety tips during SIA Snow Sports Show

Valdez, AK (January 21, 2013) -- Big mountain, steep skiing icon and legendary guide Dean Cummings hopes this ski season isn’t nearly as lethal as the last, when 34 backcountry skiers, riders and snowmobilers lost their lives. To that end, Cummings is putting extra focus on spreading his avalanche safety protocols to the mountain-loving public and colleagues in the outdoor and snow sports industries.

Cummings’ Steep Life Protocols, his trademark avalanche curriculum, have evolved over the 20 seasons the heliski pioneer has been safely guiding clients in Alaska’s legendary Chugach Range. 

Over the course of his career as a professional skier, Cummings has lost numerous friends to accidents in the mountain especially avalanches. Last season’s avalanche statistics got personal for Cummings when his friend, Jim Jack, and two other experienced backcountry skiers were caught and killed in an avalanche on Stevens Pass in Washington.

Cummings himself is a certified avalanche professional well versed in snow science. His Steep Life Protocols differs from more formal avalanche curriculum by focusing on practical, easy-to-remember tips to help people avoid getting caught in avalanches.  At the risk of oversimplification, Cummings says, “You’re either in the right place on the mountain or the wrong place.”

Cummings’ curriculum not only helps skiers better recognize where those wrong places are, but also teaches a top-down, on-the-go snow assessment methodology to help better manage travel in the backcountry.

Cummings curriculum has been recognized by the Alaska Governor’s office for its contribution to safety for all people. His peers in the outdoor industry voted Cummings Avalanche Educator of the Year last year. He is also a member of SnowSports Industries America Backcountry Task Force.

The Steep Life Tour stopped in key communities in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and California this fall. Following is a schedule of Steep Life Protocols at the upcoming SnowSports Industries America Snow Show in Denver Jan. 31 – Feb. 3.
Thursday, Jan. 31, 4:30 p.m., Backcountry Experience. Trade show attendees only.
Friday, Feb. 1, 9 p.m. Hyatt Regency. 650 15th St., Denver. Open to the public. This is a special tour stop open to the general public as well as trade show attendees. Dean will host a special Steep Life sneak preview followed by music by acoustic rock singer-songwriter Joel Kachel.
Saturday, Feb. 2, Noon, Backcountry Experience. Trade Show Attendees only.

Cummings says the Steep Life Tour and sharing his avalanche protocols are his way of “giving back.” Attendees at the show can also learn about Cummings’ other businesses, H2o Outdoor Gear, maker of Alaska-tested skis and gear and H2o Guides, his guided helicopter skiing and riding service. Trade show attendees can visit with Cummings to talk all things backcountry at SIA Booth #3417 and try his skis during SIA’s On-Snow Demo Ski Ride Fest Feb. 4 – 5 at Winter Park Resort.

The Steep Life Protocols enjoy the generous support of Cummings sponsors including Polarmax, Traser, Ortovox, and iON Worldwide.

One of the pioneers of big mountain steep skiing, legendary guide Dean Cummings is former is founder and Lead Guide of Alaska’s premier helicopter skiing operation, H2o Guides. He has appeared in nearly 50 films from leading ski filmmakers such as Warren Miller, Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions. Cummings continues to push the limits of his sport as witnessed last year by his first descent of Mount Francis in the Chugach Range just outside Valdez, AK. Each model of the skis he designed for his company, H2o Outdoor Gear, has won editorial recognition in each of skiing’s leading publications.

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