Joined: 23 Dec 2010 Posts: 2 Location: Steamboat Springs, Co
Posted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:17 pm Post subject: Getting Avy Savvy Part 2
Getting Avy Savvy Part II
I recently had the opportunity to take my avalanche 1 training class with Alpine World Ascents and it was an unforgettable experience. We met for two nights in a classroom at CU where we learned about how to classify avalanches, pick terrain, and be safe in the backcountry. We got to put these skills to the test during the weekend, spending two days up on Berthoud Pass learning in the outdoors. Our class was split into two groups so that we would all get personal attention from both of our instructors—Tim and Colin. We spent the first day learning about how to rescue someone caught in an avalanche. Tim showed us the proper searching techniques and even had us bury some beacons in the snow and try to find them. It really caused me to think about the seriousness of an avalanche rescue and difficult it really is to unbury someone caught 1.1 meters under (average burial depth). Our class had the opportunity to debrief the day and we all agreed that before the class, we had no idea how hard it actually is to rescue someone buried by an avalanche in the fifteen minute window of opportunity. It really made us consider the choices we make when we go into the backcountry.
On the second day we got to plan our own tours, with help from our instructors, and learn about avalanche terrain by actually going there. We set out in our small groups for the tours—my group choose the perfect trees area of Berthoud Pass. From our tour we could spot countless examples of avalanche terrain, which made for good discussion and lessons. Around lunchtime, Colin taught us how to dig a pit to look at the different layers in the snow. He showed us how to identify weak layers, faceting, and how easy it is to trigger those weak layers. We all got the opportunity to get in the pit and take a look. After digging the pit, we had ample time to ski around the area and talk about our observations. It was a very fun day!
The best thing about the avy 1 class with alpine accents was the relationships that were formed over the four days. Both of our instructors were incredibly kind, patient, and knowledgeable people. They took the time to get to know everyone individually—which is hard to do with 20 people in just four days. I felt confident that these guides knew exactly what they were talking about and they were honest about the things they had learned from years of experiences in the backcountry. Not only were they great instructors, but they were great people—fun to spend time with and converse. I also made great relationships with my classmates—we still e-mail all the time about going on tours together. In fact, I just went on a tour with a person from my class this weekend up on Berthoud. The class really gives you some good friends to ski with—plus you know they’ve had proper avy training!
Lastly, the class made me really feel like I have the knowledge I need to make good decisions in the backcountry. Going into the class I was hoping that I’d feel more confident going on tours with different people instead of the same groups I rely on for avy knowledge. Since the class, I’ve gone on two tours by myself, which is something I never thought I’d feel comfortable doing. I’m so grateful for the confidence to head out with just me and my pup and feel the incredible sensation of stealing turns in the vast emptiness of nature—no sounds but your own breath. Having my avy 1 gave me the security I needed to make better decisions and enjoy the backcountry in a whole new way. I would recommend Avy 1 from Alpine World Ascents to anyone looking to learn more about avalanches and feel more comfortable about making good decisions in the backcountry. It really did change my life!
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