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Learning respect

Staff Reports

In this day and age of mega-splash media, of seeing, hearing and reading news, one should know that skiing in the backcountry should not be taken lightly.So, here is one more little plug to uninformed backcountry enthusiasts to educate themselves and be safe (by the way, I’m crossing my fingers as I write this).I took an avalanche class a few years ago, and have mostly kept up those decision-making skills by sporadically using and gleaning info from other backcountry travelers. So I was excited at the chance to observe another class and get another perspective. The class offered at Colorado Mountain College is run by Dan Aguilar, an experienced mountaineer and long time local search and rescue volunteer.One of the more memorable themes in both classes was the, “What if?” scenarios the teachers kept throwing out.The one day you forget your beacon and you ski that’s the day you’ll need it. The day all your friends hit a line together that you’ve skied a hundred times with proper spacing that’s the day it’ll go.I couldn’t help but think, “I really know how to kill myself now.” And if nothing else, that kept my attention during the three-and-half-hour night session.But, unlike my first avy class, these instructors are not just backcountry savvy, they are trained educators as well. They explained the material very well. Upon leaving the class, one should walk away with a pretty good understanding of snow, weather and terrain.And, after seeing slide after slide on the big screen and hearing avalanche stories that put a chill down your spine, things are put into perspective.The advice is clear: Start slow. Ski safe pitches – pitches that aren’t known for sliding. Leave your ego behind. Save the showboating for a ski day under the chair at Beaver Creek (that’s where the best snow is, right?). Remember skier ability has nothing to do with snow safety or backcountry experience.All this advice, it seems, should fall under the common sense category.Colorado Mountain College has a Level I class March 11-13 and a Level II class March 21-23 left this year. The Level I class format consists of two night sessions and an all day field session. The Level II is a hut trip, dealing with snow science, extensive route finding and decision making. For information contact Colorado Mountain College (970) 569-3308.Photos and story by Matt Inden


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