Level 1 Avalanche CourseOctober 27, 2016
Level 1 Advanced Avy CourseOctober 27, 2016
Hut Based: Decision Making in Avy Terrain
Why not enjoy the comforts of a high mountain hut, surrounded by the pristine wilderness of Colorado’s majestic San Juan Mountains, while also completing the curriculum of our Recreational Level 1 Avalanche Course? Throw in food and you’ve got yourself an awesome trip!
This 3 day, 2 night program covers all the material of our Level 1 Avy course from the cozy confines of one of our private backcountry huts situated in the Red Mountain Pass area with impeccable access to backcountry skiing terrain – the perfect venue to take part in an avalanche training course.
With skiing right out the door it’s tough to beat access for our field sessions and the evenings at the hut provide additional opportunities for students to cover essential course material with our instructors. This is a can’t miss course with a client-to-guide ratio of 5:1 and a 10 participant maximum class size (new for the 2020-2021 winter season). Want to squeeze in some additional backcountry skiing and more in-depth touring and decision making skills? Consider adding on an additional day of Private Ski Guiding or take the 1 day Avalanche Rescue Course – which is now a prerequisite for the Avalanche Level 2 Course.
Course Progression with The Local Experts
San Juan Mountain Guides has been offering formal avalanche courses since 1992. Our program and course curriculum has been meticulously customized by AMGA Certified Ski/IFMGA Guides and former Ski/Snow Patrol Professionals. We offer the most comprehensive access to terrain in the San Juan Mountains – from the Sneffels Range to both the North and South sides of Red Mountain Pass and all the way to Coal Bank Pass. No other guide service or avalanche school in the region can offer this variety of terrain as part of their program.
Our instructors have customized the instruction to maximize student learning outcomes as they relate to backcountry travel in a continental snowpack such as the San Juan Mountains. No other guide service combines our experience, knowledge-base, and access to backcountry ski terrain. Participants in the Level 1 Course can expect a minimum of about 8 hours of classroom instruction and about 16 hours of field instruction in the following subjects.
Types of Avalanches
Characteristics of Avalanches
How Avalanches Form and Release
Assessing Avalanche Terrain
Trip Planning & Preparation
Route Finding & Decision Making
Level 1 Hut Based Avy Course Itinerary
Classroom day. Meet at our office (725 Main Street, Ouray) at 0800 to finalize course paperwork. The group will then begin the classroom portion of the class. This will serve as a complete introduction to the course. There will be a 1 hour lunch and then the group will transfer the Hut. An afternoon field session rounds out the day. Stay at hut.
Field session, 0800-1700. Today we will spend the entire day in the field. Topics covered will include test pit construction, travel techniques, snowpack dynamics, and terrain identification. Instructors will demonstrate each topic and then students will practice under observation. Stay at hut.
Field session, 0800-1700. Today we will complete a tour on Red Mountain Pass. Students will be asked to make decisions with regard to route finding, and terrain management. We’ll select a slope to ski and assess the stability of the slope for descent purposes. Course will between 3 and 4 pm at the top of Red Mountain Pass.
Avalanche Course Equipment List
|Ski Backpack||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Kamber ABS® compatible 22+10 give you the option to add an inflatable airbag system to a technical ski pack designed to carry everything for a full day in the backcountry. We highly recommend a specific ski touring pack for all of our backcountry ski and avalanche programs.|
|Coffee is the lifeblood of champions. We highly encourage the consumption of coffee on our programs. The darker the better.|
|Water Bottles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.|
|Bottle Insulators||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Insulating water bottle parkas are recommended in the winter months, for ice climbing or cold weather alpine trips.|
|Stuff Sacks||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Stuff sacks are a great way to organize your gear in your pack and help to keep things tidy in a variety of ways. A great addition to any of our programs.|
|Personal Food||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.|
|A good pair of wrap around sunglasses are an essential item for all of our trips. When the sun shines brightly on fresh snow in the mountains your eyes will thank you for a quality pair of shades. Looking good is important too.|
|Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack. |
|Lip Balm||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lip balm is important to bring on all trips. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.|
|A headlamp is recommended for all of our programs and is an essential piece of equipment you will use in a variety of circumstances. Most LED type headlamps will do but we recommend the Black Diamond Storm for its versatility.|
|First Aid Kit||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An excellent investment for all of our programs. Our guides always carry a comprehensive medical kit but it's nice to have your own as well.|
|Small Knife||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A small knife is an indispensable tool to carry with you in the mountains. We like the Spatha knife for its size, weight, versatility, and ability to clip onto a harness.|
|Digital Camera||Description||Guide's Pick|
|While phones these days offer excellent quality, nothing beats the reliability of a dedicated digital camera. You'll be glad you brought it and your guide will make sure to help capture the moment of you being awesome.|
|Hand Warmers||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An optional item, but nice to have on cold weather climbs and courses. Consider having a few stowed away in your pack and you can break them out if you feel you need them.|
|Ski Goggles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|From the sweeping peripheral in the Optimum lens, to the horizon-inspired frame structure, FARGO proves sometimes a quick stop in a small place leads to more than you would have ever expected. Goggles are mandatory on all ski programs and cold weather alpine objectives.|
|Synthetic socks area must for all outdoor activities. Select a pair that fits well, is warm, and is comfortable. Bring 2-3 pairs depending on the type of trip.|
|Base Layer Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Choosing the right base layer really makes a difference in comfort, moisture-wicking, and the balance between cool and warm at the right time and in the right places. The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody also offers good sun protection.|
|Base Layer Bottom||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Similar to the base layer top. These are wear all the time in all conditions base layer pants. A must have for alpine and ice climbing trips and objectives.|
|Mid Weight Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A midlayer for anything from ski tours to alpine ascents, the CoEfficient Hoody features Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency fleece with a gridded interior for increased wicking performance and added breathability. The under-the-helmet hood and full-length zipper let you regulate temperature on the go, so you don’t find yourself overheating a half hour into the day. A slim cut helps the CoEfficient Hoody fit comfortably under your shell, and with a redsigned, trim fit, this layer takes up little space in your pack.|
|Ski Touring Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Sweating one minute and freezing the next is only fun when you’re jumping from a hot tub into the snow and back—not while you’re skiing. If the words “ski season” make you think about moving uphill as much as downhill, the Skyward Jacket speaks your language. Air-permeable AscentShell technology keeps you cool and dry while skinning up, and keeps the speed-generated windchill out after you peel off your skins and drop in for the descent.|
|Ski Touring Pants||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Traverse the Rockies’ rugged ridgelines in the Trailbreaker Pants. This highly breathable soft shell pant provides the perfect amount of weather protection and breathable warmth. Pertex® Shield+ lower legs offer complete waterproof protection when you’re breaking trail in the front of the pack.|
|Ski Touring Puffy||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Perfect for aerobic climbs and ski tours, this backcountry chameleon provides the warmth of a synthetic puffy one moment and the breathability and quick-dry performance of a fleece the next, all without forcing you to add, remove or adjust your layers.|
|Insulated Vest||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Same spirit, same guts, and same award-winning hybrid-mapped design of the Cathode Hooded Jacket, minus the sleeves and hood. An insulated vest is an optional item on our programs but we do think vests offer excellent flexible layering options in a variety of circumstances, weather conditions, and trip types.|
|Shell Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal “Gear of the Year” award-winning storm shell is engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day backcountry tours. You need at minimum either a soft shell jacket or hard shell jacket for local Ouray based winter courses and programs.|
|Ski Touring Hat||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Get out and get after early mornings with fresh powder. The Delegate Beanie is made with a merino wool blend and a warm micro fleece polyester earband. A chunky knit beanie with a knit-in logo, the contrast pom adds a nice funky touch.|
|Baseball Cap||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A required item on the majority of our programs, a baseball cap helps to keep harmful sun off your face. The Radar Pocket cap is packable, durable, and looks great!|
|Lightweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Updated for touchscreen compatibility, the StormTracker Sensor Gloves are equally at home alpine climbing, ski touring or ice climbing. Low-profile GORE® WINDSTOPPER®. Soft Shell fabric deflects biting gusts, and a tricot lining retains valuable heat.|
|Midweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Built to handle cold mornings on the up-track and powder turns all the way back down, these versatile gloves feature a new stretch nylon shell outer, a goat leather palm with textured fingertips, and a warm, quick-drying wool blend lining.|
|Heavy Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Made with a water-resistant and breathable two-layer GORE® WINDSTOPPER® fabric, these mitts are filled with warm 600-fill power RDS goose down. Water-resistant synthetic suede palms with a fleece backer add extra durability and protection to these warm, compressible, wind-proof gloves.|
|Balaclava or Buff||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, Original BUFF® headwear is the product that started the multifunctional headwear revolution. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. We recommend the BUFF for all of our programs as a multi-purpose insulation piece and trendy headgear!|
|Touring Skis||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Touring skis with touring bindings are required for all of our ski programs. We have these skis to rent an our shop in Ouray if you do not have your own. If purchasing your own skis, make sure to select a touring binding that is compatible with your boots.|
|Climbing Skins||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Climbing Skins are a required item for all of our backcountry ski and avalanche programs. We offer these to rent at our office in Ouray if you do not have your own for your skis. Many ski companies now make climbing skins specifically cut to your skis.|
|Ski Touring Boots||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Refined for 2016, the Spectre 2.0 is now 5% stiffer while retaining the largest range of cuff rotation in its class. The patented design allows for a full 60˚ of ankle movement, while the vertebra construction provides support on downhill descents. The Spectre 2.0 now works with all tech, tr2 and step-in at bindings, for more versatility and compatibility.|
|Ski Poles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our classic ski touring poles with a pro-level feature set, the all-aluminum Traverse Pro poles feature FlickLock Pro adjustability and an innovative SwitchRelease wrist strap with a lockable release function.|
|Avalanche Transceiver||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon is the go-to beacon for the everyday backcountry traveler, offering circular range, a smart transmitter, and three-antenna accuracy in an easy-to-use package.|
|Avalanche Shovel||Description||Guide's Pick|
|With a redesigned blade construction for cleaner snow study and easier stomping through hard avy debris, the Transfer is our workhorse shovel with a removable, extendable shaft for working in deep pits.|
|Avalanche Probe||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Built for daily snow study, snow professionals and deeper snowpacks, the Tour Probe 320 features a durable, all-aluminum construction.|
|Snow Study Kit||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A snow study kit is optional for Backcountry Ski programs, but it is a great item to carry regardless. For Avalanche Courses please consider purchasing a kit to have with you on the course. Level 2 Course participants should choose the Digital Pro Kit.|
|Ski Repair Kit||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A backcountry ski repair kit is well worth the time to put together. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!|
Training & Follow Up Programs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great skiing trip.
We work with and recommend Uphill Athlete. They provide a wide range of resources, coaching, and training plans for all types of outdoor athletes. A sample training regimen for this program would be something like their 8 Week Ski Hut-to-Hut Training Program, but many other custom training options exist.
Before Your Trip
Strengthening your core is one of the best investments you can make for your overall fitness level. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling arealso great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.
Follow Up Ski Programs
Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here
Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, approximately 30 minutes south of Montrose. Known as “The Switzerland of America”, the town of Ouray is a vibrant outdoor oriented community. All local businesses are very friendly to the ice climbers who flock each winter to climb in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding areas.
The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO, however, many airlines now offer direct flights into Montrose – especially during the summer and winter months.
It is also possible to fly into Grand Junction, Durango, Telluride, or Denver CO. It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray if you’d like to fly into one of these airports.
Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Montrose, CO: 45 minutes
- Durango, CO: 2 hours
- Denver, CO: 5.5 hours
Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!
Registration & Cancellation
Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.
- Guiding and instruction with an AMGA & AIARE Certified/Trained Guide
- 2 Nights Lodging at Hut
- Breakfasts and Dinners at Hut
- AIARE Level 1 Course Manual
- AIARE “Blue Book” Rite in the Rain Fieldbook
- All avalanche gear (beacon, probe, shovel)
- Touring skis, skins, boots, and poles are available to rent from our office for an additional rental fee
- Transportation to Ouray, CO
- Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
- Guide gratuity
- Lunch food or snacks
- Personal ski clothing
- Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
- Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides
Book This Trip!
We Offer Online Registration
- Click on Book This Trip
- Select your Program dates
- Enter your Info and Payment
Or, call 800.642.5389 to register