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Mountain Rescue offers avalanche course

Janet Urquhart

Mountain Rescue Aspen will impart its annual dose of backcountry wisdom with its ever-popular Avalanche Awareness Workshop on Jan. 13 and 14. As always, the two-day course will cover the fundamentals of avalanche awareness, including avalanche-hazard evaluation, snow pit analysis, probe-line methods, use of avalanche beacons, route selection and safe travel techniques.”For a lot of people, this may be the only formal avalanche training they ever get,” said David Swersky, Mountain Rescue member. “We get some people who return and take the course for a second or third time.”The workshop is suited to both backcountry novices and those seeking a refresher course, whether they travel on snowshoes, skis or via snowmobile, he said.Registration is from 5-6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at the St. Regis-Aspen, followed by classroom instruction from 6 to 9 p.m. Participants must attend Friday night’s session in order to take part in Saturday’s outdoor instruction on the top of Aspen Mountain. Halstead Morris of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center will lead the Friday class.On Saturday, Jan. 14, participants should come prepared to spend the day outside, with backcountry travel gear, atop the mountain. The outdoor session starts at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with a 2 p.m. “group rescue problem.””It’s not going to be overly bogged down with the physics of snow science,” Swersky said. “It’s largely focused on making wise decisions.”And, participants will learn what to do in the event of a slide.”You have to be prepared to deal with an avalanche when it happens,” Swersky said. “It’s not just having the equipment – beacon, shovel and probe – but knowing how to use it.”Skiing out to call Mountain Rescue in the event someone is buried in an avalanche means a body-recovery mission, not a rescue, he said.The $30 fee for the workshop includes both sessions, avalanche educational materials and a gondola ticket. Go to mountainrescueaspen.org for more information.Beacon trainingMountain Rescue Aspen also conducts free avalanche beacon training twice a month throughout the ski season.Sessions are at Rio Grande Park, starting at 6 p.m., on the first Tuesday and last Wednesday of each month. Participants should come prepared to spend an hour or two outside (wear warm clothes and boots).The sessions offer instruction in beacon use and practice in finding buried beacons. Some beacons will be available to practice with, but if you have one, bring it along. Participants should also bring a headlamp or flashlight.Level I and II coursesCertified guides will lead Aspen Expeditions’ Level I and Level II avalanche courses this winter.The Level I sessions each include an evening of classroom instruction followed by two field days to learn and practice decision-making skills, route finding, understanding snow, use of avalanche rescue gear (beacons, shovels, probe poles) and hazard assessment. The Level II course runs for three full days.Aspen Expeditions recommends the courses for anyone who travels outside of controlled ski areas and in avalanche terrain to backcountry ski, snowboard, snowshoe, snowmobile or travel to mountain huts.The fee for the Level I course is $195. The remaining sessions are Feb. 3-5, March 7-9 and March 17-19.Level II courses are scheduled Jan. 27-29 and March 3-5. The cost is $295.For more information or to sign up for courses, contact Dick Jackson at Aspen Expeditions at (970) 925-7625 or visit http://www.aspenexpeditions.com.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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