Beacon co. offers more avy classes
Adding to the array of avalanche awareness classes already available for backcountry enthusiasts, Backcountry Access (BCA) and Alpine World Ascents (AWA) are teaming up this season to offer several on-snow-only avalanche training tours, including an early season (Dec. 11-13, $450) session in Silverton and a Feb. 12-16 ($1,490) trek to the Swiss Alps around Andermatt and Gotthard Pass. The emphasis is on gaining practical experience leading informal tours in the backcountry, said BCA vice president Bruce Edgerly.”We’ve been doing avalanche awareness talks all over the place the past few years,” Edgerly said. “It became apparent that when the focus is on classroom learning, it doesn’t always translate to confidence in the field,” he said. “We decided to try and set up a new type of avalanche course to address that,” he said. It’s an effort to increase avalanche awareness without competing directly with existing classes,” he added.The tours won’t offer formal certification – the Level 1 and Level 2-type classes familiar to many backcountry skiers and boarders. In fact, they are aimed at people who may already have some formal training and are looking to exercise that theoretical knowledge in a real-life setting.BCA produces the popular and user-friendly Tracker rescue beacon, along with hydration packs and other avalanche gear. The company has long backed avalanche awareness efforts by setting up permanent beacon test arenas at ski areas around the country, including Loveland.BCA also is a key supporter of the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Center and sponsors the annual Avalanche Jam fundraiser.The goal is to increase participants’ confidence in route-finding, snow-stability analysis, group management and decision-making – ideal for people who often find themselves leading informal groups of friends in the backcountry, according to a BCA press release. Instruction will also include advanced transceiver rescue exercises, to sharpen those search and rescue skills in the event of a real life-and-death scenario, when every second counts.”I was taking a lot of classes and learning about things like ram penetrometers (used to measure the density of snow) and studying snowpit profiles, and I realized I was rarely using any of that stuff,” he said.The new field-only avalanche classes are also geared toward addressing the growing realization that human error is at the root of many avalanche accidents.After studying and computer modeling decades worth of data from avalanche accidents, researchers are finding that, even when skiers and snowboarders have the ability to determine hazardous conditions, group dynamics can sometimes result in poor decisions.The field sessions should help backcountry travelers recognize and avoid some of the so-called human factors and mental traps involved in backcountry decision-making, Edgerly said. Groups of four or more backcountry travelers should consider choosing an informal leader for their treks, he added.The Tracker beacon has also been redesigned this season, with changes aimed at boosting durability and ease of use, including a new strap and glove-friendly mode buttons.”The battery compartment has also been strengthened. We have seven years of data now, so that gives us a good idea as to which parts needed to be tweaked,” Edgerly said.Some of the changes are intended to address issues of durability that arose a couple of years ago, when a Jackson Hole backcountry skier was swept over rock cliffs in a slide, apparently resulting in a beacon malfunction.The courses will be taught by Edgerly and AMGA-certified ski mountaineering guide Markus Beck. For more information on the BCA-AWA sessions, call BCA at (303) 417-1345 or AWA at (303) 485-1511.
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