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Jan. 27, 2022 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Grab your skis, snowshoes and disco clothes and get ready for a fun, educational weekend full of adventure with Eastern Oregon University’s Outdoor Adventure Program and its 10th annual Backcountry Festival.
The festival, hosted by Anthony Lakes, not only serves as a multi-event excursion into the Oregon wilderness, but an opportunity for education on avalanche safety and to support the Wallowa Avalanche Center.
“The Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival is a partnership between Anthony Lakes, the Wallowa Avalanche Center, and the Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP). It’s a weekend of celebrating mountain culture in Eastern Oregon, and it’s also the biggest fundraiser that’s conducted all year for the Wallowa Avalanche Center,” OAP director Michael Hatch said.
The Wallowa Avalanche Center provides advisories, short public notices on conditions and hazards, and avalanche safety instructions for Eastern Oregon. The center recently expanded to providing four advisories a week thanks, in part, to funds gained from the festival.
“I think it’s a very viable resource for folks here locally, and the Wallowa Avalanche Center covers the Blue Mountains north of town, all the Wallowas and all the Elkhorns, so millions of acres of terrain… It’s all about saving lives and keeping people safe,” Hatch said.
Primary outdoor activities begin Feb. 5 and include the Kip Rand Memorial Backcountry Race, avalanche companion rescue clinic, avalanche basics clinic and a disco-themed bonfire with raffle prizes.
“We’re kind of like, ‘Let’s just devise a fun weekend of activities that fundraise for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, but also give people a fun social experience where they can get together, do some races and clinics,’” Hatch said.
Folks can do self-guided tours in the Anthony Lakes backcountry on Feb. 6. The Wallowa Avalanche Center will also offer its own forecaster tour.
“Sunday, we have a tour with the WAC forecasters, where people can join us to go on a tour of the backcountry to explore a new area and talk with people about the different things going on in the snowpack,” Hatch said.
Due to pandemic safety restrictions, several events have been altered. The live music show at the StarBottle Saloon has been replaced with the bonfire night. Both the 17th annual Backcountry Film Festival and the live auction have been moved online.
The online film festival will show “Winter Wildland Alliance,” a compilation of backcountry clips, while the auction will provide goods and services from local businesses such as Eastern Wheelworks, Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, and Eagle Cap Mountain Guides. Other corporate sponsors include BCA, Dakine, and Weston Snowboards .
“We have some great local sponsors like Robert Brooks Painting and Contracting, Winding Waters River Expeditions out of Joseph, Side A Brewing, Wallowa Alpine Huts, and the Kokanee Inn in Joseph,” Hatch said. “I’m really excited for the disco bonfire dance party. I like to dance.”
The Backcountry Festival’s in-person events begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, with the Kip Rand Memorial Backcountry Race at Anthony Lakes Resort. Registration is available now at eobf.redpodium.com/kip-rand-memorial-backcountry-race. The online auction runs until Feb. 6 at 32 Auctions. The remote film runs Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 with tickets available at everyaction.com/DRueHRbTvUWaP-FtcoXRWA2. A full schedule of the festival can be viewed at eou.edu/outdoor/upcoming-events.
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