Meet our Expert Team members: Ørjan Venås
Been working with avalanches since the late 1990s
Image credit: Kjell Erik Reinhardtsen/Gjendeguiden
Ørjan Venås (42) is originally from Telemark but is a current Vågå resident. He is the co-owner and managing director for Gjendeguiden, an outdoor touring company at the base of Jotunheimen. He started Gjendeguiden with three other mountain enthusiasts in 2017, and take people out to hike, bike, and ski, showing the best of what Jotunheimen has to offer.
Ørjan has worked a lot with avalanches since the late 1990s. Until February last year he worked in the Norwegian Army where snow and avalanche awareness is part of the service. “I worked some periods for Norwegian School of Winter warfare as an instructor for both avalanche-rescue and avalanche-awareness. Today he is leader of one avalanche-rescue team in the Red Cross.
Ørjan has been an eager skier since childhood and says that he is among the few who still uses Telemark skis. When he studied at Inner Troms, he was often skiing at Tamokdalen and also arranged freeride competitions for several years. Tamokdalen is his favourite area to go skiing, but Rauland in Telemark, Jotunheimen, Gjende, Sognefjellet are other nice places for skiing. “There are nice areas in the south and in the north… it´s a great country for skiing.”
We ask Ørjan to share any avalanche stories from his ventures in the backcountry: “I was trapped by an avalanche in Tamokdalen in 2006. There were two of us that were hit by the avalanche, and one skier who was still at the top of the slope. We had to dig one skier loose, who still had his arm and head exposed over the snow. I was completely covered by snow, but I think what saved me was the fact that the scope of the avalanche wasn’t that big. I was lucky there was just a little amount of snow,” Ørjan tells us. “This was an impactful experience, but it’s not something I wish upon anyone else. The same day as my accident, a girl 12 miles north wasn’t as lucky as us.”
The avalanche conference in November 2017 was the first time Ørjan heard of Sknow. “Sknow and I met through the winter school and we sat down and started talking. I have some experience with data and data-collecting in the military, so this was a perfect match.’”
Ørjan hopes to contribute to Sknow with his deep knowledge and interest in avalanches. He is familiar with the effort it takes to dig snow profiles and identify the similarities and connections to avalanche risk. He hopes that the Sknow technology will give more precise warnings about avalanche danger, and that you don’t need to be an expert to use the technology. “Sknow is something new that I believe in. I want to help collect data for Sknow so they can create an accessible technology for everyone. I think it is a great organization to be a part of.”
Ørjan´s advice for safe travels in avalanche terrain is go out and practice in the snow often. “To learn, you must go out and practise. Take courses and trips and learn how to use the planning tools, ex Varsom.no. Also remember, you can get a lot of nice trips under 30 degrees.”
Sknow is excited to have Ørjan as a Sknow Expert this season!