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 Post subject: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 4:10 pm 
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Location: Northern NM
I'm planning on taking an avy L1 early this season in the San Juans. Anyone have suggestions, experience with any of these guys? Here's what I'm looking at, they're all AIARE Level 1:
Wolf Creek Avy School, Pagosa Springs, Dec 1-3
Southwest Adventure Guides, Durango, Dec 14 - 16
Silverton Avy School, Silverton, Dec 28 - 30

First choice would be Silverton since Jim and those guys were so helpful at the Splitfest in April, but I want to get an early start... Silverton is holding a course for snowmobilers earlier in December but I kind of want the standard L1...

Thoughts, suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:45 pm 
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well, a little later in the season can be good as the snowpack will have more layers, more opportunity to learn something in the pit. I took mine at Silverton in a lean January and there were essentially two layers to the snowpack.

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:13 pm 
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HikeforTurns wrote:
well, a little later in the season can be good as the snowpack will have more layers, more opportunity to learn something in the pit. I took mine at Silverton in a lean January and there were essentially two layers to the snowpack.


Ahh, thanks.
I hadn't even given any thought at all to the actual snowpack. I've only been thinking in terms of having the credentials early so I can meet up with touring partners. Hard to blame people for not wanting to tour with someone they just met on the interweb, especially if the person doesn't have at least some experience or education.
Thanks again, it makes sense that an avy class would be more worthwhile when there is actually some snow depth. I spent the early part of this summer reading Tremper and Fredston & Fesler while sitting by the pool, not sure how much content I absorbed...

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:45 pm 
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I agree with what HFT is saying about more layers make for a more interesting learning experience in the snow pit analysis and snow science.

I would like to say that the focus of an AAIRE AVY 1 class does show a snow pit, but the focus on AVY-1 class is much broader and is designed to build the foundation for making good decisions, while traveling in Avalanche Terrain. Snow Science and snow pit analysis is covered much more in depth in Avy-2 course.

Keep in-mind a shallow snow pack can be more reactive, (less bridging between the layers). This was certainly the case last year in Western Colorado.

Concerning AVY -1 courses consider (north of the San Juan Mountains):

10th Mountain Huts Level 1 Avalanche Course: 3 day course at the Sangree Frolicher Hut
http://www.huts.org/Community/events_workshops.html#avi

This is great course!

or Colorado Mountain College (or your Community College or University) Avy-1 course, taught by AAIRE instructors / guides. A great value.

Lastly check with your local Mountain Rescue and Ski Patrol: for example Aspen Mountain Rescue holds an annual Avalanche Awareness course ( a pre-courser to AVY 1) . http://mountainrescueaspen.org/about-2/public-avalanche-seminar/

If the opportunity presents it self to take an early season AVY one course take it. One could always ask for a follow-up on what the snow pack is doing.

Here some AVY Stoke which you could do through out the season (frane 2:10 plus)


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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:07 am 
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Hey dude,

I took the Wolf Creek Backcountry L1 coarse last year on December 9th. We had plenty of snow there and it was such a crap year. The key elements you learn in L1 is risk management and traveling safely in the backcountry. What makes it easier is how much you can absorb. The Wolf Creek school caps their class at twelve students and they have three instructors, all L3 certified. I was told that many others have thirty students to 2 instructors.

Finally three days above 11000 feet of hiking riding digging and mock rescues leaves you tired and sore as phuck. They give you a pass to Pagosa Springs Overlook hot springs. My wife and I sat in t there for 4 hours strait got out had lunch and then sat in there until they closed. They serve you wine and beer and food in the tubs. It was awesome.

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:49 am 
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We are fortunate to have many great learning opportunities here in the San Juans.
I would recommend taking an AIARE level 1 course for skiers, etc., NOT a course for snowmobilers. Unless that is what you are planning on doing. It will be a very different course and group in the class. That also being said I would check out the class as much as possible before hand. Some of the early season classes around here have a lot of snowplow drivers and train workers. I have had friends take other classes in the area only to be stuck with a bunch of snowplow drivers or snowmobilers who were on snowshoes and no desire to learn about a how to execute a sucessful full day ski tour.
I finally took my level one last year with KLING MOUNTIAN GUIDES based here in Durango. http://www.klingmountainguides.com/aval ... urses.html
I was extremly satisfied with the course and instructor. The head guide, instructor & owner Josh Kling recently helped AIARE to completely redesign and update the information in the classes. The courses are usually started with class room day here in Durango. Then field days on Red Mt pass, good stuff!
Josh also leads expeditions around the world including Kilimanjaro again this year. Or in the spring, fun outings like Chutes and Routes combining spring skiing and rock climbing near Moab.
His classes have a 6:1 student to teacher ratio with a max of 12 people. Hands on personal instruction is the goal here.
My group last year was a great mix of backcountry skiing enthusiasts varing in age from 21 year old dudes who worked at wolf creek to a older lady nurse who helped out with search and rescue. And a few of my own friends and co workers who all needed to get educated.
This was exactly what I was looking for.
Hope this helps!

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:12 am 
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Sandy and Mark @ WC avy school are good people! We stayed at their Yurt last winter and Mark has been forecasting and teaching in the San Juans for a long time.

But the Silverton school is one of the best (if not the best) in the nation.

Either way you would do fine (with the exception of the snowmobile course). Hot Springs may push it over the top, I love Hot Springs!!!

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:11 am 
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Thanks for all the good advice...

I've looked at Kling, but he hasn't posted up his '12-'13 calendar yet. Josh is a super nice guy, last season he hooked me up with the guys at Backcountry Experience in Durango who rent avy, AT, and even splitboard gear.

I'm leaning toward WC since it's closest to home and I have a place to stay in Pagosa Springs. And yes, the hot springs are f'ing incredible. My best trip of last season was a 4 foot, three day weekend at WC, finished off at the hot springs.

Hard to beat soaking in those hot springs out on the roof while it's snowing, sipping a cold beverage.

Hey Pedro, thanks again! The Pass Creek yurt is one of the places I've been scoping for a nice family trip, probably not for a year or two though. My youngest is not quite ready for the BC.

Thanks for the vid Powder_Rider, very nice. I guess I'm not the only one jonesing for winter... in the last week I've watched Deeper, Steep, and even Blizzard of Ahh's for some '80s stoke (I heart Glen Plake).

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 Post subject: Re: early season L1 courses in southern CO, suggestions?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:43 pm 
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I ended up taking the earliest course, Dec 1-3, from Sandy at Wolf Creek avy school. She and Casey did a great job teaching, Mark met us on our tour the third day. We had 8 students: 6 skiers, a pro snowmobiler, and myself. It was a good group, lots of questions and excellent discussions.
The snowpack was extremely thin but our field days were still good. We got to see some serious Godzilla surface hoar, crystals were like 5 cm. And we got some interesting and fun "powder" turns up high on 20 cm of facets. The approaches/ exits were the only bad part of the trip, icy/rocky sufferfests. Even those were good practice for me, skinning and riding in non-ideal conditions are just part of the deal, right?
Anyway it was a great experience. Sandy, Mark, and Casey are all total pros. I'm ready to get out and ride more safely this winter.
EDIT: the Overlook hot springs in Pagosa kick much ass! :clap:

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