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Into the Wild- Getting Started Backcountry Skiing | UNITED STATES, COLORADO | 03/31/2009, by GoooompzAlpine World Ascents in Boulder Colorado was nice enough to to send a Skiing the Backcountry novice backcountry skier to their AIRE accredited Level 1 Avalanche Class. Here is his first journal entry:
I left the sunny state of California where the weather is nothing short of outstanding and the roads are never slicked with black ice for one reason-the mountains. I've now got two years of Colorado fun under my belt and I couldn't be more satisfied with my decision to attend CU Boulder. The close proximity of the mountains seems to have enlightened me. These geological wonders are summer and winter wonderlands, providing ample resources for all types of sports and activities. After experimenting with rock climbing, hiking, and inbounds skiing, I thought to myself, "What else do these Colorado Rockies have to offer me?"
I stumbled upon the answer to this question when I attended the first of many Backcountry skiing club meetings. With no expectation of joining or participating, I slid into a chair in the back of the room and began dozing as I waited for the meeting to start. It took five minutes to transform me into the most enthusiastic backcountry skier wannabe in the room. By the end of the meeting not only had I paid club dues, but I was signing up for every hut trip I could squeeze into my schedule. What hooked me wasn't the dull PowerPoint presentation or the flashy beeping equipment they displayed, but the attitudes of the club members.
The purpose of these kids existence was to live life to the fullest. They were motivated by something greater than themselves; maybe it was their love for the backcountry or it could simply be something about their character that drew them to backcountry skiing in the first place. Sure the pictures of their outings were amazing, but the exciting atmosphere of the club undoubtedly hooked me.
With backcountry skiing as a recently acquired passion, I'm now engulfed in an onslaught of jargon and equipment. This new world I've joined is overwhelming. And I'm ready to tackle this electrifying, dangerous world of backcountry skiing. However, since I wouldn't like my first trek to be my last, I've enrolled in an avalanche level 1 certification class before losing my backcountry virginity. There are some specific skills I would like to learn from this avy class that would boost my confidence out on the hill.
The first and most important ability I'd like to gain is to develop a sixth sense for detecting which slopes are susceptible to sliding. Why learn how to deal with the danger of an avalanche when I could learn to avoid one altogether? Another thing I'd like to learn is what equipment is necessary to carry when skiing in the backcountry. The last thing I want to do is have 40 pounds strapped to my back when I'm skinning up a gnarly pass. I know the basics-shovel, probe, beacon etc-but as a college student, I'd like to know on which items I can go cheap and which ones I must go big. Lastly, I want to avoid panicking at all costs. What are the appropriate measures I must take both to ensure my party is as safe as possible and when an avalanche strikes.
I would like to have those questions answered when I walk away from this avalanche class. However, I am a novice backcountry skier so the most important thing I must remember is to keep an open mind and learn from the experts. Stay tuned for more journal entries!