Staying safe in the backcountry
October 31, 2012
As snow season approaches and locals are trading mountain bikes for skis and snowboards, some are starting to eye the surrounding peaks, looking out-of-bounds for their wintery entertainment this season.
Colorado is among the western states most prone to avalanches due to its snowpack, a striated surface that’s typically unpredictable and often unstable. It takes a close eye on avalanche forecasts and solid backcountry know-how to navigate out-of-bounds terrain. Luckily, Summit County organizations offer opportunities to learn safe backcountry protocol.
Among them are four courses recently put on the calendar through Rocky Mountain Guides offering an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) certification.
Level One Avalanche Safety courses are set for Nov. 29-Dec. 2, with two evening classroom sessions on Thursday and Friday (6-10 p.m.) and two field days on Saturday and Sunday. Dec. 14-16, Jan. 21-23 and Feb. 8-10 courses offer combined classroom and field sessions daily. Courses cost $325.
The certification allows those completing the courses to move on to Level Two courses. For more information and pricing, call Rocky Mountain Guides at (970) 409-9555.
Colorado Mountain College also offers avalanche instruction, but the fall semester’s courses typically fill with waiting lists forming as soon as registration day. More classes should open up in the spring.
Recommended Stories For You
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center offers custom courses, with information available at http://avalanche.state.co.us/pub/
The Chicago Ridge snowcat tour program at the nearby Ski Cooper Ski Resort has previously combined classroom instruction with on-snow practice, including shuttling pupils into the backcountry via the machinery used for cat tours. Find out more information online at http://www.ski
It’s also never a bad idea to go outside of home territory to seek backcountry knowledge, said David Dellamora with Rocky Mountain Guides.
“I firmly believe that leaving your home terrain, while seeking education, is actually more beneficial than taking classes at home,” he said via email. “When you travel to an unfamiliar location, you develop the ability to better understand both mountains and peers from an altered perspective. You begin to recognize that all mountains demand a high level of respect, not just the peaks you live near. Whenever I return to Summit County, my confidence rises, simply because I have experienced unfamiliar terrain from a visitors perspective.”
He endorses course providers on the Front Range as well as programs offered by Aspen Expeditions, Crested Butte Mountain Guides and the Silverton Avalanche School.
“The instructors are all elites within the professional avalanche community,” Dellamora said.
Recommended Stories For You
Trending In: Sports
- Team Summit freestyle skier Tori Ware recognized as USSA Rocky Mountain Division Colorado All-Star
- Prep roundup: Tigers XC posts 18 personal-bests in Rifle
- The Outsider: When should you remove a rod in your leg?
- Bill Kresge completes mission to hula-hoop all 56 Coloado 14ers
- Mountain Wheels: Volkswagen’s Southwest SUV road trip offers glimpse of Atlas (review)
- Colorado gem hunters are back near Alma mine that was once a mother lode of rhodochrosite, the official state mineral
- Vail Resorts to buy The North Face and Columbia stores in Breckenridge
- Rescued Silverthorne hiker recounts how he survived 80 hours lost in Colorado 14er backcountry
- Hate ski boots but love to ski? This Colorado company created a way to allow skiers to wear snowboard boots
- Girl who fell from Hotel Colorado fights for life, regained consciousness but in ‘extremely critical’ condition, mom says