Discussion in 'General' started by idsnowghost, Dec 1, 2014.
Thank you for the resources!!
Another option is Pro Guiding out of North Bend, WA. Not exactly local but they do have a wide variety of courses from entry level to expert level to guided multi day courses to fit individual or group needs.
I have no affiliation with Pro guiding other than having taken courses with them. I highly recommend them as guides and educators.
A little bit of a sales pitch but I think Marten has a good point in this article below. Marten is a highly accomplished ski mountaineer, educator, and family man.
How to get into Backcountry skiing (by Martin Volken)
If you don't have time time to ready the whole thing; don't let the AIARE 1 course be the only piece of backcountry education.
I never thought I would see the day. Backcountry skiing is actually popular. The quality of gear available to the person considering this great sport has increased dramatically and the selection is astounding.
Ski areas are revamping their out of bounds policies and are trying to find a way to be a part of this trend.
Along with increased funding for the various Avalanche Centers across the country, we have also seen a dramatic increase in popularity of the Avalanche Safety Course organizations (AIARE.org and www.americanavalancheinstitute.com to name a couple). The tireless efforts of these organizations to get budding ski tourers (along with snow shoers and snow mobilers) into the backcountry safely cannot be overlooked. In fact they are providing opportunities to the backcountry ski community that I never had growing up in Switzerland.
The systematic approach offered in these multi level courses can really propel your avalanche safety knowledge forward dramatically in a very short amount of time.
For many an aspiring backcountry skier taking an avalanche course has now become the first logical step in the educational process, but regrettably that is also where is stops quite often. Let me explain.
Backcountry skiing is an application- based skill with many nuances. People often come to our avalanche courses because they are skiers and of course know how to walk. In many a persons’ mind the missing link is the understanding of snow safety and therefore they take an Avalanche Safety Course. This is an understandable notion, but regrettably it does not paint the whole picture of what is going on a ski tour.
When I started Pro Guiding Service about 21 years ago, we actually did not offer avalanche safety courses. We offered ski touring courses ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert courses – which we still do. When avalanche safety courses thankfully were made available to mountain guides as a teaching school, most of us happily started teaching them – and we still do. In a very short time the popularity of avalanche safety courses started overtaking our popular “Intro to ski touring courses”.
So there are two trends; one of which I am happy about and one that I feel needs a little adjustment.
More than ever people want to approach backcountry skiing in a cautious manner and they feel that some sort of education is needed before venturing out there.
I could not agree more. You can get a so-called education from a friend and or mentor as well of course. Just choose your source carefully. Upon asking our avalanche safety course participants about their personal course objectives, the overwhelming answer is that they want to make better and safer decisions in the backcountry. Of course – that makes perfect sense, but it is important to remember that avalanche safety is one of many important considerations when moving trough backcountry terrain. An extremely important one, but nonetheless just one of them. The stated objective of our ski touring courses are to get the course participant to a point where he or she can choose, plan and execute a ski tour on their own. These courses are incredible rounded introductions to the sport and are 100% movement and application based. They cover topics such as equipment selection, tour planning, time calculation, navigation, uphill movement skills, pacing, track setting, ski movement skills and much more along with companion rescue and safe movement in avalanche terrain. As you can imagine these courses are packed with information and as the name implies, it is an introduction to the above mentioned topics.
Depending on where you are taking your avalanche course you may spend up to 35% of your course time indoors, which maybe be necessary in order to get introduced to the concepts of snow safety. This also means that you might not get introduced to many of the other ski touring skills at all. What you will get in an avalanche course is a very well structured and systematic introduction to avalanche terrain and avalanche hazard recognition.
I have yet to meet a course participant who took an avalanche safety course or ski touring course who told me that this was a waste of their time. The question is this: does either of the courses prepare the course participant adequately to venture into the backcountry in a safe and self-sufficient manner? Here is my honest answer. You get to choose between two courses that both go from great to amazing once they are combined with one another.
Does this sound like I am trying to get you to sign up for another course – ideally from my guiding service? Well, that may be so, but my motivation comes from an honest place. I truly believe that Level 1 Avalanche Courses do not fully prepare you for self-sufficient backcountry travel. It is also not their stated objective. An introductory avalanche course is supposed to deliver a well-structured introduction to avalanche terrain and hazard recognition. In order to go from this important baseline to becoming a self sufficient backcountry skier, you will have to develop other skills that are, well – taught in a ski touring course. The sum of the two course curriculums combined delivers amazing results for the backcountry skier. So if at all possible, try to combine the foundational elements of an avalanche safety course with the components of a movement and application based ski touring course. Don’t let one or the other be the only educational course you take in your journey of becoming a backcountry skier. Just take them both from a reputable source. This might be a guiding service, a club or a friend. Trust me - it is worth your time and money.
NIC Outdoor Pursuits just got approved to offer their Avalanche Awareness class. Registration closes soon! This is a great way to get a start on your avalanche education if you are brand new to backcountry. They provide avalanche equipment and have rentals available for ski or splitboard equipment. Check it out here.
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