This past weekend, I had the pleasure of taking an Avalanche Safety Level I course with CMC teacher, and Steamboat Ski Patroller, Cody Perry. Like most people who live in Steamboat, I want to get out in the backcountry, and this course is a necessity for winter backcountry endeavors.
On top of that, I learned that Colorado annually has one of the most dangerous snowpacks of the United States and,in turn, the most avalanche deaths. With all of Colorado’s recent avalanche deaths and injuries, I knew that this class would be essential for the lifestyle I want to lead. I highly recommend an Avalanche Safety course for anyone who wishes to go out in the backcountry.
We had two classroom sessions, and then we took two day trips to gain hands-on experience. Our first trip was to Rabbit Ears Pass where we learned how to dig snowpits, perform a variety of snowpit tests, and then use these tests to evaluate the stability of the snowpack. The next day, we ventured out to Cameron Pass, about an hour east of Steamboat.
While I have lived in Colorado my entire life, this was my first time to Cameron. I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the mountains. I realized how lucky I was to live in Colorado, a place where natural beauty is as abundant as Steamboat’s snowfall for the past two days (40 inches!). I also realized how lucky I was to go to a school where the classroom can be the Colorado backcountry. At Cameron, we were able to witness firsthand the instability of Colorado’s current snowpack. On our way to our destination, we had to cross a slide path of an avalanche that had slid days before. It’s essential for backcountry users to pass avalanche paths one at a time in case an avalanche does occur. That way, at least one member of the party is left to perform the rescue. After reaching our destination, a large meadow surrounded on all sides by towering, craggy peaks, we then practiced beacon rescues. We were also able to get one run in above the meadow before we had to leave.
Yeah I get to snowboard for college credit, not a big deal. Anyways, this course has profoundly influenced my life. The knowledge and experience I gained in this class is my key to the backcountry.
I’ll be able to put this experience to use soon, as I am heading to Jackson Hole in two days for the CMC Alpine Backcountry Club trip. Jackson Hole is forecast to receive up to three feet by Thursday, meaning good times, but also high avalanche danger. In the mean time, stay safe out there and tune back in later for my update from Jackson, as well as some footage from the epic 27″ day we just had in Steamboat!