Summit Survival Skills courses focus on building fire, shelter, clothes and primitive weapons |

Summit Survival Skills courses focus on building fire, shelter, clothes and primitive weapons

Learn how to make fire in the first course held a the Frisco Marina, Wednesday, July 8.
Special to the Daily |

In Summit County, we constantly live on the edge between civilization and the backcountry. With just a few steps out your door in the morning, you can easily find yourself in what feels like a far-off forest; a little further and you really are in the middle of nowhere. Chances are you’ve gone on countless hikes, day trips, camping trips and other adventures here, but, if you really got in the thick of it, are you confident enough in your survival skills to make it through the night or make it back home?

That’s just the question New Belgium Brewing Company is posing as they introduce a series of survival skills classes to Summit County this month. The classes are taught in an informal setting, with beer in-hand at the Island Grill at the Frisco Bay Marina and are open to anyone who might find a use for a little more natural knowledge.

“All of our ancestors once knew all of these skills,” commented instructor Jillian Liebl in a phone interview while preparing for the first class to be held Wednesday this week. “Everyone once knew these. These skills connect people to Colorado in a unique way; once you learn these, the woods won’t be wallpaper anymore, it’s no longer scenery. You start to see friends all around you.”

She and her husband, Sam, will be the instructors for four classes this month, each focused on specific survival skills. They have been enamored with survival practices for years and began teaching the skills three years ago in their hometown of Salida. It’s there that a representative from New Belgium, Annie Ruiter, saw the couple and came up with the idea of bringing the classes to Summit.

In the first class held Wednesday, July 8, participants will get the chance to learn how to make fire using bow-drill skills. Sam looks to this class as a way to really get people interested in survival skills: “For a lot of people, it’s a life-changing moment to make fire; they just light up when they make it for the first time. It’s really a gateway skill.” In order to create fire, he and Jillian have been collecting cottonwood and explained that it, as well as any other poplar trees, make for the best bow-drill fire starters. Since these tree types are common in Colorado, once participants have learned from the instructors, they’ll be able to take the skill with them in the backcountry. Sam explained that “the goal is to spread the skills as much as we can; not many people know these basic skills that make us human.”

Along with building fire, the coming classes will focus on building shelter, making food out of foraged plants, making clothes and using primitive weapons.

Sam is particularly “stoked for the beer and wild plants.” Yes, this course will not only teach you how to eat a dandelion, but also what brew is best served alongside.

If you are concerned the survivor lifestyle isn’t for you, don’t worry — the instructors ensure that this course is valuable for anyone, regardless of their experience. The course is even open to children, but it will be held in an adult environment, so be aware the class won’t be catered toward a younger audience if you are thinking about taking your child along.

In fact, it is often the people who come in with the least experience that do well in these classes. Sam mentioned that the people who watch a lot of survival shows and come in with preconceived notions tend to struggle. If you decide the class is for you, just leave your expectations at the door, and go in for the experience.

As with all of New Belgium’s events, a local nonprofit will be the beneficiary. In this case, classes will be provided for a $5 donation to the High Country Conservation Center. The two organizations have previously worked together on events, like the scavenger hunt held yearly at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and will look to make these survival skills classes a recurring event, if it is a success.

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