Ski Safety and Avalanche Expert – 2014
Dick Penniman has lived in the North Lake Tahoe area since 1972 and is one of the nation’s foremost experts on snow avalanches and skiing safety. He has taught thousands how to read snow and safely enjoy skiing and other outdoor winter pursuits.
Since 1982 he has been the leading avalanche safety educator in California. He taught full semester avalanche safety courses for Sierra College in Truckee for nearly 30 years. As a principle instructor he also taught for the National Avalanche School, the American Avalanche Institute, the Alaska Avalanche School, Outward Bound, and many others. He also ran his own school, Snowbridge Avalanche Seminars, here in Truckee. He gave evening lectures for Bay Area REI stores for nearly 20 years and continues to lecture for REI in Reno. At last count Dick has taught more than 3,500 outdoor winter enthusiasts about avalanche safety. Students in his full courses received American Avalanche Association Level 1 and/or Level 2 certification. It is fair to say that as a direct result of Dick’s work, hundreds of avalanche related injuries and/or deaths have been avoided.
Starting his career as a ski patroller at Sugar Bowl in 1972 he became Ski Patrol Director after only two seasons. In the off-season he worked in Chile as Mountain Manager for a well-known ski resort. He was then hired as Assistant Ski Patrol Director at Alpine Meadows. He was intimately involved in directing snow safety operations at all three resorts, allowing countless tens of thousands to enjoy the slopes free of any avalanche worries. Not a single person has died or been injured by avalanches while on his watch.
He has consulted for public and private industry and/or as an expert in legal matters throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Chile, Argentina and Australia. Among the many entities that have hired Dick as a consultant are Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Royal Gorge XC Center, the U.S. Forest Service, and the California Division of Forestry. Since 1993, Dick has served as the Avalanche Hazard Forecaster for Washoe County which area includes the entire Nevada side of North Lake Tahoe. He was founding Co-Vice President of the American Avalanche Association, and is currently the Chief Research Officer for the California non-profit SnowSport Safety Foundation.
Dick has written more than 40 articles or technical papers for the most prestigious snow and skiing safety publications including Ski Area Management Magazine and the Avalanche Review. Dick’s skiing safety papers have been published by peer review by the International Society for Skiing Safety and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). In 1986, he delivered the closing paper for the 50th Anniversary Seminar at the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
Dick is an avid mountaineer, white-water kayaker, sailor, road and mountain biker, and of course, skier. Included among his more notable accomplishments, he sailed for 6 months from San Francisco to Jamaica, trekked over 360 miles in Nepal to Everest Base Camp climbing a peak to over 20,000 feet along the way, and white-water kayaked the full length of the Grand Canyon twice. He has completed five passes of the Markleeville Death Ride nine years in a row and has raced in the Great Ski Race 5 times.
Other significant adventures include numerous climbs in Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows, two ascents of the Grand Teton in Wyoming, hiking nearly all of the Great Tracks of New Zealand and sea kayaking in both the North and South Islands, in Tasmania and in the San Juan Islands, exploring the Kakadu and Fraser Island of Australia by 4X4, and, of course, skiing all over the world.