If you are anything like me: mid-20s, student loans, car insurance, rent- the whole 9 yards, then you’ve encountered the same monstrosity- the price for an adult season pass. You don’t get the “student discount” anymore and its not going to get any cheaper-unless you are skiing as a senior, which is novelty for anyone at that point.
You’ve admire people who get after it in the backcountry but after researching the initial cost of the backcountry set-up: Beacon, Probe, and Shovel, you may just buy a 6 day pass to your local resort. After all, it’s SO much easier to buy a pass, do laps without sweating or exhaustion, drink $12 Bloody Mary’s at the bar, and hit man made features all day.
As much as I appreciate what our resorts have done for me in pruning my skills as a decent snowboarder, I realized that powder days at the resort were the best of days and I knew that I was ready to ditch the crowded lift lines and limited powder stashes for the adventures that awaited in the wild out-of-bounds regions of the San Juan Mountains. So I slowly bought the gear (remember-tax season is just around the corner) and signed up for the class, knowing that this would be the last “Season Pass” I would buy for years to come.
Let me list off 5 reasons why you should buy your Avy I course instead of a Season Pass & what makes San Juan Mountain Guides the “Local Experts”.
1. Less Crowds, More Powder, Steeper Terrain- Take it back to the basics; we love to shred because of just that, shredding. Ditch the stylish clothes and high tech gear, ditch the groomed catwalks, and remember the organic adrenaline rush that comes from within, while you shred some of that hidden powder terrain stashed back in the abyss of the resort… Now that is the reason why we do it. You’re ready for more of that, less of the holiday crowds and honestly, you are curious on pushing the boundaries. San Juan Mountain Guides understands that, they embrace it, and they openly share their experience and knowledge with you. You can trust their judgment and within a minute of casual conversation, you’ll know that you are learning from some of the best.
2. Gathering & Evaluating Information-So I know a big dump when I see one (no pun intended). We all know that fresh snow is the difference between a good day and a great day at the resort. My Avy course with San Juan Mtn. Guides taught me: to gather information, what resources to trust, and how to interpret that information for Avalanche condition.
“There is no dumb questions, I’m here to teach you what I know.” Aaron Ball (SJMG instructor)
It’s intimidating to learn about something so complex and often you feel as if you need impress others when it comes to shredding terrain. SJMGs not only allowed us to ask questions in a comfortable setting but they challenged us to think by asking us questions on cases studies in the classroom and scenarios in the field.
3. Trust your own judgment; make your own calls- So we all have good friends who like to ski. Some we have skied with for years and some we have just recently bSome we have known for a short time, others we’ve known for years. Now when it comes to back country skiing & being new to it all, having your friends guide you and show you the ropes tends to be a great way to start…or so it seems that way. Now this isn’t any bash session on your pals, homies, or BFFs; but it is important that you know how to take care of yourself and make your own decisions. As a newbie in the Back Country, it never occurred to me that I had never really evaluated or even thought about what type of experience my ski partner may have. Our guides brought this up and made me realize the important subtle concerns like group dynamics and skill sets. Sometimes these small concerns don’t even need to be addressed, as long as you have a great day of some freshies and avalanches don’t occur. However, the moment that something does go wrong, you want to make sure that your partner has got your back and that YOU have their back. So, essentially, I am saying to ski with your friends but also be
aware of each others abilities, personal comfort zones, and thought process when you’re out there.
4. Knowing when to just say “no”- Our instructors taught me something that I will never be able to forget nor ignore; the power of human emotion.
“Human emotions can be the main factor in human triggered avalanches” – Aaron Ball (SJMG instructor from my course)
Sometimes we are overcome with an urge to do something we’re passionate about, even if doesn’t exactly feel right. You know why? Because we are temporarily blinded by our own ambitions, our goal, or even the reward; because shredding that big line is going to be “SO EPIC” and if we don’t do it now, then we skinned all the way out here for nothing. Being aware of this and how this may play a role in a group dynamic is essential to making the best decisions in unpredictable terrain and conditions. Don’t be attached to a plan & have a back-up in case you don’t feel comfortable with your first decision. When it is all said and done, you really have to trust where and who you are learning from when it comes to back country skiing, and decision making is the most important element when traveling into the unknown.
5. Learning in the San Juans- If you are from around here, have moved here, or heard anything about the San Juan Mountain range; I’m sure that you know that the combination of our peculiar snow pack and hellish steep terrain makes our region a rarity among ranges of North America. Our Avy group joked about the intense learning curve that’s unavoidable in the San Juans as you really can’t pick a more avalanche prone region. For that reason alone, I would trust no other than San Juan Mountain Guides and the expertise they are known for in the Mighty San Juans.
I truly appreciate San Juan Mountain Guides ability to convey this information in a friendly, educational, and professional matter. I think I can speak for my entire Avy class as we had nothing but the best of times with the experts of the San Juans.