Last weekend I worked a 3 day AIARE Level I hut trip out in Gothic, CO. Seven of us made the three and a half mile ski to the Maroon Hut for a weekend to immerse ourselves in the Level I curriculum. Basing ourselves from a hut allowed the group easy access into spectacular terrain and provided a ton of field time. One of the learning outcomes from this course is being able to recognize avalanche terrain, and we began training our "backcountry eyes" from the moment we left the trailhead.
Like all courses, students come from a variety of backgrounds and add their skills, interests and input to create a unique learning environment. Dave, pictured above, is a certified physical trainer from Conifer, CO.
Clark and Gary Fountain joined CBMG all the way from Maine, and Mike, an engineer from Crested Butte, came on out to Gothic to take his Level I and get a few turns in as well.
Brad and Bowie, roommates up in Mt. CB, completed the team.
The Maroon Hut provided luxurious accommodations and access to great terrain. Another learning outcome in the AIAIRE curriculum is to learn and effectively apply companion rescue. Recent research from snow scientists and avalanche experts has shown that shoveling is the most time consuming and arduous task in recovery. With a 30 minute window, before survival rates drop below 35%, I made sure our group practiced efficient strategic shoveling techniques in realistic situations.
What better place to realistically practice shoveling than in avalanche debris from a slide off Gothic Mt that occurred two weeks ago. All students agreed that proper shoveling techniques and durable metal shovels are necessary for moving debris that is as dense and solid as concrete.
A final learning outcome in the level I curriculum is planning and preparing for travel in avalanche terrain. I have been stressing diligent map reading and careful tour planning with my classes all season. Terrain doesn't change so backcountry travelers can do their "map homework" and find terrain they want to ski and terrain they want to avoid before they head out into the field. The class learned how to measure slope angles from maps, how to identity avalanche paths and most importantly how to find potentially good, safe places to ski on any given day.
We put our preparation into practice as we went out in the field for a full day tour. All our hard work paid off and we had a great tour.
And we got some good turns in as well.
Thanks everyone for a great weekend. Be safe, and I'll see you all out on the skin track!