Experience

“The #1 thing I learned is I am not nearly as good at guessing which slopes are safe as I thought I was. My favorite aspect of the class was digging the snow pit. A ton of information came from what we observed. I will ride differently and take more time to evaluate a slope in which I feel poses more of a risk. I plan on continuing my avalanche education and would highly recommend this class to others. Sandy is a virtual wealth of information and has great instructors!”

-Darren Black

 

 

“I will be more aware of conditions and other people I ride with. I learned how to identify snow layers and slope angle and enjoyed learning to use beacon and probes in real case situations. I’m recommending this course to my dad, brother, and sister.”

-JJ Cooley

 

 

“Taking the avalanche class made me realize two things, first it doesn’t matter if I have training if I’m the one buried. Every one I ride with should be trained and ready to perform a rescue. Second, the class made me aware how important it is to CONSTANTLY study snow conditions and be aware of my location and the location of my riding partners. I would recommend avalanche training to everyone who ventures into snow country, and I plan on taking a course every year to remind me of what we’re up against. I know a lot of people who have been caught in slides and lived, but I’ll never be able to forget the ones who didn’t live.”

Thank You, Randy “Dobbs” Atkinson

 

 

“Are you looking for an opportunity to not only ride some of the best snow in Colorado, but also heighten your avalanche awareness and advance your snowmobiling skills?

 
 

This weekend, I rode with Matt Entz (Mountain Skillz). Here is my story:

 
 

After just a couple quick emails, Matt had us set up with a hotel room and our learning/riding itinerary. We started our trip from Fort Collins, CO., making the drive down to South Fork, CO in around 5 hours on a Friday afternoon.

 
 

DAY 1 – CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION (Friday)


 
 
When we arrived in South Fork, we met up with Matt and carpooled over to Pagosa Springs, CO., where we met up with a few other people for the classroom portion of the Intro to Avalanche Awareness course. All in, our group size was 10 for both the classroom and field instruction. In cooperation with the Wolf Creek Avalanche School, Matt utilized an AAA accredited instructor for the instruction portion of our trip. The classroom session was VERY informative and both Matt and Sandy did an excellent job involving us. Using slides, video, and personal narrative, it was easy to absorb the information. In fact, there were several children in our ‘class’, and with how the information was presented, even they stayed very attentive and intrigued throughout the three hour class.

 
 

DAY 2 – FIELD INSTRUCTION (Saturday)

 
 

The next morning, prior to heading up to the Tucker Ponds parking lot, we ate Breakfast at ‘Feelin Good Coffeehouse’. The staff was incredibly friendly and the food was good. We fueled up, picked up some water and jerky, and made the <10 mile trek up to the parking lot.

 
 
Once we geared up, Matt and Sandy took the ten of us through the CAIC avalanche bulletin for the day. They explained how to interpret the rose chart, what the dangers were, and how to adjust our ride to account for this bulletin. Next, we went over how to properly plan for an emergency, and what gear each of us had both in our sleds, and on our person. Once we were comfortable with the advisory, we took to a snow bank and practiced shoveling technique. Matt and Sandy explained not only how to properly shovel, but how they came to this technique and why it works the best. Using a pile of plowed snow was a good simulation of actual avalanche-packed snow. Finally, before we headed up the mountain, we performed a beacon check.


 
 
On the trail, we stopped several times to practice proper avalanche terrain technique, including route choice, crossing ‘one-at-a-time’, and other techniques that could save your life. We rode for about three miles, until we got to a large meadow.


 
 
In the meadow, we practiced probe assembly, including instruction on minimizing the time it takes to assemble your gear from your pack. Next, a couple of the instructors buried several backpacks that contained beacons. Meanwhile, Matt and Sandy were back with the group demonstrating proper searching techniques, spacing, and beacon use. After which we stepped through the proper way to initiate a search, how to manage the searching group, and then the actual search. For this, we broke out into groups of 2-3, plus one instructor per group, and searched for our ‘victims’. We repeated this exercise several times, with a different instructor each time. I really got an excellent feel of not only searching, but probing and shoveling. I really liked that they rotated instructors. It gave me several ways to look at different problems. I also really liked using backpacks stuffed with clothing because it really gave a good feel of the difference in striking the ground vs. striking a person-like object. Both Matt and Sandy were very capable of explaining all of the concepts, and both used language and tone that captivated the entire audience. The search technique instruction was beyond just learning. Matt and Sandy made the exercise fun (despite the shoveling)!


 
 
After about 2-3 hours of rescue instruction, we took a quick lunch break. Then, we formed a line on a slope, and dug a pit to demonstrate layering, surface and depth hoar, and instability. We repeated this exercise on different slope angles and aspects, as well as near trees/shade, and in direct sun. Then, we again hit the trail. We stopped several more times to evaluate conditions. Matt demonstrated how to use your machine to test conditions (instead of digging). We completed the ‘field’ training around 3:30, and Matt led us to a meadow where everyone spent some time practicing on their own, and riding around.”

-Steven