Breckenridge-based guide company partners with nonprofit to provide avalanche courses to local high school students
Also: Female backcountry ski stars to host avalanche clinics at Copper Mountain Dec. 7-8
FRISCO — Back when she was a freeride coach in Big Sky, Montana, lifelong skier Kelli Rohrig noted that kids as young as 10 were required to have avalanche gear because so much of the terrain her athletes skied on was mitigated avalanche terrain. Rohrig then helped make a requirement that the athletes, despite their age, learn how to use the gear.
Many years later, Rohrig is still working to expand backcountry avalanche awareness in young skiers. For the past half-decade, the Vail Valley-native and her brother, professional skier Chris Anthony, have put an emphasis on avalanche education for youths, teaching avalanche awareness classes to High Country kids via The Glide Project, a nonprofit they founded together.
For the first time this winter, The Glide Project will conduct classes in Summit County. Rohrig said the Summit County classes were made possible thanks to a partnership with Abe Pacharz, the new owner of Colorado Adventure Guides in Breckenridge. After multiple attempts to organize a Summit County-based class in recent years, Rohrig said Pacharz didn’t hesitate to take the program on.
“Abe saw the opportunity, and that’s how we got into Breckenridge,” Rohrig said. “In the past, we’ve had kids driving over the pass to attend classes, so I’m much happier not having teenagers driving over Vail Pass.”
As a result, The Glide Project and Colorado Adventure Guides will host a three-day American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Level 1 course for high school students Dec. 20-22. The course will consist of several hours in the classroom as well as portions of two days spent out practicing skills in the snow. The course is offered at the reduced cost of $400 and is available for $200 for those who earn a scholarship.
Then on Feb. 29, The Glide Project and Colorado Adventure Guides are partnering for an AIARE Companion Rescue class. The class — which covers how to use a transceiver and shovel as well as how to do group rescues — is open to students ages 11 and older and costs $155 or $50 for those who have a scholarship.
“It’s a good opportunity for kids not looking to commit to the three-day class,” Rohrig said, thought students are encouraged to take both classes.
There are 12 spots available for each class.
Rohrig is hopeful the class will not only benefit high-school-age skiers in Summit. She said that in recent years, there have been students who have attended from the Front Range.
Rohrig hopes the partnership with Colorado Adventure Guides will reach the kind of Summit County backcountry skiers and snowboarders she sees in deep backcountry zones, like the Vail Pass Recreation Area. Rohrig said it is impressive to see youths skiing and riding big lines in some of the region’s most revered zones. Rohrig thinks many of these youth recreators are the children of longtime local skier and snowboarder parents. With that, Rohrig hopes there is somewhat of a trickle-up effect where the young students’ avalanche awareness education inspires their elders to learn more, as well.
“There’s kids in the backcountry,” Rohrig said. “We know for a fact that this is a thing and — to be honest — for the most part, those kids are better skiers than most. There are groups that get after it, kids getting well into the backcountry exploring well beyond what people would recognize. … It’s pretty impressive where some of these high schoolers are going. And they are good skiers. We’d be remiss to not recognize that.”
The Glide Project also is looking to bring its free avalanche education and snow science seminars to more Summit County schools. Last winter, the nonprofit presented at The Peak School.
Copper Mountain Resort will host a pair of clinics run by SAFE AS — Skiers and Snowboarders Advocating and Fostering Avalanche & Snow Safety — the weekend of Dec. 7-8.
The program operates annually during early-season clinics at ski resorts across the west that are tailored for women and open to skiers ranging from beginners to those more experienced with avalanche awareness and safety. The group was founded by popular female backcountry skiers Elyse Saugstad, Jackie Paaso, Michelle Parker, Ingrid Backstrom, Lel Tone and Sherry McConkey with the intention of fostering an open, welcoming and enthusiastic environment by which to encourage participation and communication to play safely in the mountains during winter.
“With winter around the corner, I make it a point to kick my season off with some classroom time and on hill companion rescue drills,” Parker wrote on her Instagram last week. “It’s how I prepare for my season and has kept me safe! Knowledge is perishable so the refresh and constant open mind to learning is key.”
The sessions at Copper will consist of classroom time, on-snow training and morning yoga. The Saturday women’s-only session is for girls ages 14 and older who are interested in starting or refreshing their knowledge of snow and avalanche safety in and out of bounds. Sunday’s session is coed. All participants are asked to provide their own avalanche beacon, shovel, probe and backpack.
The clinics are taught by Tone, a Squaw Valley avalanche forecaster, Alaska ski guide and AIARE avalanche instructor. Each class is $140 and covers the cost of lunch, a lift ticket and a raffle. There’s also a $110 student rate for those with a current transcript or student ID.
For more information and to register, visit safeasclinics.com.
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