More avalanche instruction and training is becoming available all over the country as Alpine Touring and backcountry skiing grow in popularity. It's never a bad idea to become educated on a vital topic for all ski and snow enthusiasts regardless of your desire-or lack of-to ski out of bounds. Eldora Mountain Resort is offering two, Level 1 Avalanche training classes this season. Get registered and be prepared.
Colin Mitchell has instructed the Avalanche School Backcountry Safety class at Eldora for the past five years. He explained that the class is broken down into two classroom days and two field days. During the instruction phase the information provided focuses on decision-making while in avalanche terrain. Types of avalanches and how they form and release are studied thoroughly, as well as recognizing avalanche terrain and danger factors, managing avalanche hazard and group dynamics, planning and preparation for travel in avalanche terrain, and techniques for safer travel. Students also will learn how to interpret the avalanche bulletin and apply it to the decision-making process.
"Day one in the field will focus on what to do if things go wrong," Mitchell said. "We will study and practice companion rescue, including beacon use and function, strategic shoveling, and rescue techniques."
Students dig a snow pit to look at layering in the snowpack, and also to identify grain types, weak layers, slabs, and other snow types. Day two breaks students into two groups where each will plan and execute a ski tour collectively. Mitchell explains that the class leaves Eldora Resort through the backcountry gate, and spends the day ski touring and doing real-time decision-making and terrain selection. The students plan and lead the tour with guidance and mentorship from the instructors.
The class curriculum is based on The American Institute for Avalanche Rescue and Education (AIARE) and costs $220. Each student will need telemark or AT skis with skins, a splitboard with skins, or snowshoes for backcountry access. Class participants will need to arrive with their own avalanche beacon, rescue shovel, and probe. The first class takes place Jan. 26-30, and the second and final class is Feb. 16-20.