SPOKANE, Wash. — It's nearly been a year since a devastating avalanche at Silver Mountain, three people died and four others were injured. Since then, skiers and resorts have been gearing up to make sure they stay safe on the mountain.
After the avalanche at Silver Mountain, local retailers saw a spike in avalanche beacons. They're devices that help locate rescuers locate skiers if they get stuck under the snow.
Now amid the pandemic, REI Spokane reports beacon sales are spiking once again as record amounts of people rush to get outdoors.
Winter sales in general are projected to skyrocket. Earth Economics estimates outdoor recreation in Washington supports more than $26 billion dollars in spending and that number is said to be larger this season as more people turn to outdoor recreation.
Even amid new statewide restrictions limiting capacity in stores retailers have stayed busy.
"You know we were concerned about the crowd size and everything, but they're following the protocols," Jay and Judy Stafstrom said.
The Stafstrom's are in shopping for cross-country skiing gear to get into the backcountry.
"We just canceled Thanksgiving with family in Seattle and so now it's like you gotta get the energy out and the anxiety out, getting outdoors really helps with that," the Safstrom's said.
They're not alone, Katie Wiseman with REI Spokane said demand for outdoor recreations has stayed steady throughout the entire pandemic and people hoping to get their hands on winter outdoor gear should buy now.
"Most of our snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and downhill skiing is kind of taking off, we're telling customers to buy now," Wiseman said.
Record high demand for outdoor gear has been causing supply to short out sooner. Wiseman said the beginning of the pandemic is a good indicator for what retailers can expect as many chose to opt outside.
"It's hard to guess and then you look at demand and everyone wanting to get outside, everybody, because that is how to stay apart with your loved ones," Wiseman said.
One of the most popular items this year is avalanche beacons, something normal for the back-country, but this year some are choosing to carry them even at resorts.
"Every person should have one, if they are in the backcountry in reality that's a safety concern," Wiseman said.
The devices are used for people going into avalanche danger areas, they send out a radio signal which is picked up by another beacon. However, these devices by themselves aren't any good unless you have other necessary tools like a shovel and a probe.
"You use that to kind of poke into the snow and see how deep it's going and see if you can feel directly under you and see if someone is there," Wiseman said.
While it's not as common for people to carry beacons at resorts, the incident at Silver Mountain proved that in an avalanche, no matter where you are, every second counts and these devices can make a big difference.
Both the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center and the Northwest Avalanche Center offer avalanche safety courses. In these class they teach you how to recognize avalanches, how to avoid them and tools you can use to protect yourself.