I was exited to hear Flathead Avalanche Center and Friends of Flathead Avalanche Center (FOFAC) were putting on a women's specific avalanche class. And even more excited at the cost…FREE! So I signed up eager to learn how to use my gear. I recently bought a beacon, probe and shovel but they've been sitting in their packaging all season. So this was the perfect opportunity to learn how they work before I enter into the backcountry.
The course consisted of two evening classes and one day in the field on Whitefish Mountain Resort. The course was taught by a power house line up of ladies: Sue Purvis, Jenny Cloutier, Kate Atha, Amy Moore, Kim Corette and Jen Carpenedo all with extensive backcountry experience and education. Almost mind blowing how much knowledge these ladies have.
The first two classes started out with the basics of avalanche terminology, overview of terrain and snowpack and how to read the Flathead Avalanche Advisory. Trip planning and prep, how to travel safety, simple route finding and how the Human Factor can influence your decision making process were all covered. At the end of class we conducted a gear check to make sure our beacons worked properly and everyone had the proper gear for our field day on Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Our day on the mountain couldn't have gone any smoother. We were split up into four groups (Surface Hoars was our group name!) and worked our way through a total of four learning stations. Beacon Park, Pit Analysis, Digging Your Own Pit, and Probe Shovel Dig. We learned everything from how to dig a pit, conduct column and extended column tests, determine if the area is safe to ride/ski, how to use our beacons in a search and proper shoveling and probing techniques. So much education packed into one awesome afternoon.
Next came the rescue scenarios. Each scenario simulated an avalanche with buried friends and gave us the chance to utilize our newly gained knowledge. We needed to organize our crew, designate a leader, assign tasks to each person and then start the search. Beacons, probes and shovels were out and we were off to find our friends. In the end we all learned what it takes to be safe in backcountry. For ourselves and our friends.
This course was spot on for those just learning the backcountry ropes. The instructors were so passionate about avalanche education and safety that you couldn't help but get excited. My number one take away from the course is you MUST know how to use your gear and you MUST make sure the people you choose to go into the backcountry with know how to use their gear too. Your life depends on it. Oh, and always wear your beacon!
If you are thinking about going into the backcountry please consider taking this course or one similar to it. The knowledge you gain may just save your life or your friends.
Post by Sarah White
Outsiety member from the get go