Being avi savvy
Friends of San Juans announces Avalanche Awareness classes, off and on snow

Being avi savvy

It's time to skin up and get down, but first how about some avi refresher?

Missy Votel - 11/09/2017

With snow on the peaks, it’s also on the minds on many locals. But as you survey the quiver and take stock of the backcountry kit, don’t forget the most important backcountry tool of all: avalanche education and awareness.

Whether you’re just in need of a little refresher or are a total newb, Friends of the San Juans will be offering a slate of upcoming classes aimed at making sure your next tour goes as smooth as the newly fallen snow. All classes are free and open to the public, although some require advance registration or prereq’s.

FOSJ’s series kicks off with basic Avalanche Awareness classes, followed up by two on-snow sessions (prior attendance at a basic avi awareness class is required.) After that, classes will dig a little deeper with an avi rescue class and field sessions.

The classes are taught by FOSJ instructors, who meet requirements set forth by both FOSJ and the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and are also certified in wilderness first aid or higher. All classes are free and open to the public, although registration is required for the on-snow sessions.

The classes are as follows:
• Avalanche Awareness Class – Thur. Nov. 16, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Pine River Library, Bayfield • Avalanche Awareness Class – Tues., Nov. 28, 6 - 8 p.m., Powerhouse Science

Center in Durango
• On-Snow Avalanche Sessions – Sat., Dec. 2, or Sun., Dec. 3, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Andrews Lake/Molas Pass. Participants need only sign up for/attend one day. Pre-registration and prior Avalanche Awareness Class required.

• Avalanche Rescue Class – Thur., Dec. 7, 6 - 8 p.m., Pine Needle Mountaineering

• On-Snow Avalanche Rescue Field Sessions – Either Sat., Dec. 8, or Sun., Dec. 9, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Andrews Lake/Molas Pass. Participants need only sign up for/attend one day. Pre-registration and prior Avalanche Rescue Class required.

The five-hour Avalanche Awareness Field Sessions will cover all the basics, including preparation and communication; terrain recognition and avoidance; smart travel protocol; basic snowpack understanding; and safety gear use. Specifically, participants will be schooled in the ways of group dynamics, communication and decision making; avalanche terrain, slope angle, terrain traps and gullies; the complexity of snow-

pack and layering; basic smart travel protocol; and beacon, probe and shovel basics. There will also be a live (simulated) rescue as well as time for some beacon practice.

Participants should plan on being out in the elements the entire time. They are required to have at minimum, beacon, probe, shovel and pack as well as AT/tele/splitboard setup with climbing skins (backcountry Nordic/hybrid skis with metal edges and fish scales or snowshoes are also OK.) Skis can also be rented from Pine Needle (FOSJ members get a 20 percent discount.)

With on-snow class-size limited, organizers ask that attendees are 100 percent committed so as not to waste a spot. In addition, attendees are asked to be geared up and ready to go by 10 a.m. (no, this does not mean pull into the parking lot at 10) and carpooling is encouraged as parking at Andrew’s Lake is limited. Last but not least, we know you love your dogs, but please leave them at home – there will be enough going on without having to worry about them.

Participants under 18 are welcome, as long as they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

For more info or to register for the snow sessions, go to