June Mountain Ski Parol stages second annual disaster rescue clinic

“It’s been a long time since Mono County has seen a catastrophic event,” said Eric Diem, director of the June Mountain Ski Patrol.

Diem staged the second annual avalanche rescue training on Thursday, Jan. 20 for the June Lake and Lee Vining volunteer fire departments.

Following last year’s successful clinic, Diem put together a manual with guidelines for some of the larger agencies that don’t deal with snow crises on a regular basis.

At this year’s clinic, attended by some 40 people, Diem said there are some new firemen and a new generation of kids in the department who are really motivated to learn.

Next year, they’ll expand to a classroom session one week and the outdoor avalanche training the following week.

This year’s training took place behind the down canyon fire station No. 2, in the four seasons snow field. On Wednesday, patroller Neil Satterfield set up the field, burying three mannequins in ski patrol jackets.

On Thursday night, the generators hummed, lights illuminating the snow, as Diem, incident commander, set up a course probe line, and fire volunteers probed until they found all the mannequins.

Then, having buried a fireman in the snowpack, Ruby the avalanche dog demonstrated her training by searching him out.

“The morale and spirit were high,” Diem said of the night’s clinic.

“It’s important to work with the big agencies,” who could be faced with finding buried cars, homes, backcountry skiers in an avalanche, blizzard or other snow disaster.