Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

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Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Skimo95 »

Hello 14ers community,

I’m looking to expand my knowledge on avalanche safety. I am looking for a well reviewed mad scientist. Are there facilities or persons which you guys refresh with every year and highly recommend? What type of homework are you doing outside of classes? I’ll be getting more into winter alpine mixed climbing with splitboarding, and would like to be as safe as possible. Evaluations and risk mitigation is key as I’ll likely be doing the more dangerous peaks solo. Sorry if this has been asked before,

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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by aksean22 »

I would highly recommend taking an AIARE 1 class for starters. I've had good experiences with both Colorado Mountain School and Colorado Adventure Guides for that. I believe CMC offers courses as well. Mark Smiley has some great online courses that I use as a refresher every year. There's also a bunch of free events offered by Friends of Berthoud Pass and others throughout the season that have lots of good info.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Jorts »

Not specific individuals, but assuming you have some experience and have already taken a couple avy courses, I'd suggest refreshing with the usual avy tomes: Staying Alive in Avy Terrain (Tremper) and Snow Sense.

Get out digging in the snow. Do pit tests. Refamiliarize yourself with types of weak layers, is a particular snowpack and aspect weakening or strengthening, etc. It helps to monitor your local snowpack throughout the season.

With regards to risk and managing it, reread some accident reports on CAIC. Their analysis is tops for insights to risk mitigation. A lot of the human factors reveal themselves repeatedly in those.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Skimo95 »

Thank you guys, I should’ve stated my only education is from reading the AAIRE level 1 handbook. That is certainly no substitute for formal training, seems I have something to work on the next few weeks. Cheers
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Jorts »

CMC provides AAI 1 & 2 for a cheap price.

For a more expensive, more immersive experience; Colorado Mountain School, Colorado Adventure Guides and Silverton Avalanche School are all great overnight options for AIARE 1.

The curriculums and standards between AAI and AIARE are essentially the same. I’m not an instructor so I can’t speak to the nuances between the two.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by dwoodward13 »

Jorts wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 5:16 pm CMC provides AAI 1 & 2 for a cheap price.

For a more expensive, more immersive experience; Colorado Mountain School, Colorado Adventure Guides and Silverton Avalanche School are all great overnight options for AIARE 1.

The curriculums and standards between AAI and AIARE are essentially the same. I’m not an instructor so I can’t speak to the nuances between the two.
CMC used the AIARE framework when I took it with them in 2020 and still appears to do so. Karin Pocock with Skyline Backcountry Guides was and still appears to be the lead instructor (CMC hires a 3rd party to conduct the course) and she was incredible. Couldn't recommend her enough. Deeply knowledgeable and highly passionate about avalanche education and snow science.

https://www.cmc.org/education-adventure ... -education
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Jorts »

dwoodward13 wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 5:52 pm
Jorts wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 5:16 pm CMC provides AAI 1 & 2 for a cheap price.

For a more expensive, more immersive experience; Colorado Mountain School, Colorado Adventure Guides and Silverton Avalanche School are all great overnight options for AIARE 1.

The curriculums and standards between AAI and AIARE are essentially the same. I’m not an instructor so I can’t speak to the nuances between the two.
CMC used the AIARE framework when I took it with them in 2020 and still appears to do so. Karin Pocock with Skyline Backcountry Guides was and still appears to be the lead instructor (CMC hires a 3rd party to conduct the course) and she was incredible. Couldn't recommend her enough. Deeply knowledgeable and highly passionate about avalanche education and snow science.

https://www.cmc.org/education-adventure ... -education
I was referring to Colorado Mountain College. But Colorado Mountain Club is another option. Not sure on their pricing. Colorado Mountain College is a nice option for affordable, non-overnight avy courses.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by angry »

I took my AIARE 1 and Rescue course with Pikes Peak Alpine School. It was free for me through my employer but I still highly recommend it. Pete Lardy (Owner/IFMGA & AMGA Certified Alpine, Rock, Ski Guide) is a great resource and also offers ski/split mountaineering courses and custom backcountry outings.

I don't think cost savings is something to focus on when your life depends on the education you are getting. I was going to take the AIARE 2 or Pro last season but ran out of time so will probably do so this spring. The more you get out, the more you learn. I like to go look at areas that have previously slid and think about what (if anything) I might have done differently. Reading case studies/CAIC reports is fine but it doesn't help you to analyze the slope yourself and actually see how it was affected by the sun or wind. Practice using an inclinometer, you are either in avalanche terrain or not, Wear a beacon even if you are solo and if you don't already have it, upgrade to CalTopo Pro.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Jorts »

angry wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 6:42 pm I don't think cost savings is something to focus on when your life depends on the education you are getting.
Hmm, seems like you’re implying low price equates to low quality? Affordability does not beget low quality with CO Mtn College. Their instructors have the experience and knowledge and they are accredited.

It’s good to remember, not everyone has the financial means to splurge on avalanche education from a private guide outfit. I’d rather see someone spend less for quality education than get put off by price and forgo education entirely.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by Chicago Transplant »

I took my AIARE 1 with Colo Mtn College in Edwards. Our instructors were all accredited and were in leadership positions with Vail Mountain Rescue Group. Our field day was on Vail Pass with them and additional VMR volunteers (some of whom were also on Vail Ski Patrol) who conduct rescue missions every year in the terrain/aspects we held our field class. The aspect and terrain where we had our class were specifically catered to the student group seeing as the most likely place the students would be applying their skills were to side country areas of Vail with the same aspects as our field session. I thought it was a very good class.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by angry »

Jorts wrote: Wed Nov 29, 2023 9:41 am
angry wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 6:42 pm I don't think cost savings is something to focus on when your life depends on the education you are getting.
Hmm, seems like you’re implying low price equates to low quality? Affordability does not beget low quality with CO Mtn College. Their instructors have the experience and knowledge and they are accredited.

It’s good to remember, not everyone has the financial means to splurge on avalanche education from a private guide outfit. I’d rather see someone spend less for quality education than get put off by price and forgo education entirely.
I'm not implying that low price equals low quality. Both Red Rocks Community College and Pikes Peak State College also offer AIARE1 and a student can use financial aid to cover the cost. I am stating that it shouldn't be the main factor in choosing a provider. The OP posted he's "looking for a well reviewed mad scientist" so I gave a name. Yes, it is a splurge for a private day out but also something that can be saved for over the next year and with Christmas coming up, one could put "avy education fund" on their wish list. I don't know of many people that are willing to get out in winter and mentor someone and with OP stating he'd probably be solo I still think its worth it and he can ignore everything I wrote if he feels otherwise.
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Re: Avalanche Instructors and Facilities

Post by SnowAlien »

I had a refresher with Crested Butte Mountain Guides (IFMGA guide Steve Banks) and Silverton Avalanche School for Level 2 (before recent overhaul) and had a great time. On the other hand, my Level 1 was with CMC (very discounted cost) and I wasn't impressed. I would also recommend getting a class in the geographic area you will plan on touring, as Front Range snow differs from San Juans and from Elks etc. Secondly, hut based avy courses are really fun (you get a hut trip and avy course in one trip and get to know your teammates and instructors).
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