AAI Avalanche 1 Course – Day 3
04 Mar, 2012
The third day with the American Alpine Institute (and second day on snow) meant taking all the education, on-snow practices and really applying it to our experience in the backcountry. It was focused on us enjoying the snow while remaining safe and watching for terrain that could be avalanche prone.
We had made a trip plan on Saturday to explore farther out in the backcountry but at our morning meeting, we discussed an alternate trip plan for the day. The reason was due to weather and the low visibility/high winds in the backcountry. Despite the forecast, it was different on the mountain and we adjusted the day to what was going on.
We headed up back to Swift Creek where we practiced beacon training the day before but today was about skinning up, splitboarding down, skinning up, splitboarding down. In between we met up and discussed the conditions, safety and best practices for terrain we were riding.
Safe from the winds in the trees
During each run, someone led the group to the next meeting point and made sure the whole group made it safely down.
When I first transitioned from skis to a snowboard with my splitboard, it took a while. I didn’t get all the snow out, it wasn’t connecting easily. By the time we did the first lap, I was quicker getting it switched around and much more comfortable with it. That was a bad issue with me was learning the equipment and how to make it work for me. Another thing was learning how to efficiently skin up the mountain at my own pace.
It was pretty fun to lead the group for the first drop in and I got some good powder turns in the process. We ended up doing two runs and three skins up for the morning. Erin worked with me to master the skinning with efficiency. What would happen is, I’d go for it and skin up, then get super hot and winded. She helped me go at a more gradual pace that didn’t punish me in the process.
Jason on his splitboard enjoying a line
For the afternoon, we made our way back to through the backcountry gate and rode down to almost the base area then headed back out of the backcountry line. There we were able to set up a mock avalanche scene and do a group rescue. For our group we head three people buried and two with beacons so it definitely was a lot of work to make sure to find everyone. We did ours in 13 minutes. The second group was much quicker, working in pairs and found their victims in 8 minutes.
We finished the day, headed into Maple Falls and met up for a debriefing of the course. It was definitely a tiring day but in a good way. I haven’t pushed myself like that for a while and I really needed the kick in the butt to work on my backcountry experience and riding. Plus skinning and hiking. Glad I finally took the course, finished it and can start gaining more experience in the backcountry. The education never stops but this is a good first step to take.