One of our last AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses of the season had 8 motivated students from as close as Durango and as far away as Los Alamos, NM. As is typical of our Level 1 Avalanche Course, we began with a full day of classroom activities and presentations, during which participants had the opportunity to become familiar with terminology and ask a lot of questions. Sitting in the classroom all day is a lot to ask, but it frees us up for 2 full days in the field on days 2 and 3 of the course.
Day 2 was spent near Molas Pass, where participants became familiar with topics including companion rescue and test pit construction, in addition to exercises related to the AIARE Observation Checklist, which allows participants the chance to start to put things together from the broader perspective of the decision making framework that was introduced on Day 1.
The final day of the course was spent touring up a sub-peak just north of Snowdon Peak. The forecast was calling for snow and it certainly delivered, snowing an inch an hour at times. Participants took turns leading the group up to about 11,700 feet, practicing and learning different types of travel techniques and terrain recognition/management, as well as route finding along the way. The third day of the course offers everyone the chance to apply the knowledge and techniques they have learned during the previous days, with many new learning opportunities and teachable moments to help things sink in.
After assessing snow and weather conditions, the group decided upon a safe descent on a NW facing aspect. Perfect snow conditions typified the descent and everyone had the opportunity to ski some fresh powder on the way down, a huge bonus after 3 days of coursework!