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Ben Beckerich

Avi training

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Howdy

 

Where to get some really good avi instruction?

 

I'm primarily a climber, live in NW Oregon, and for the time being, splitboard is my alpine vehicle of choice. I have the basics down- I know about aspect and wind direction, bonding, identifying slabs and digging pits... But would like to take a class that'll offer solid instruction on efficiently and accurately applying these things in the field to decrease risk. In other words, I really hoping to not have to waste a bunch of time covering the book stuff, so to speak.

 

Thanks

 

-Ben

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Most classes do focus on the book stuff because the rest is learning your area. The only real way to learn this stuff is to get out on a lot of different days following a lot of different weather, and see what it looks like in the field. Learning the stability tests is easy, learning what they mean *for your area* is hard, and extra hard to teach.

 

Central and southern Cascade snowpack is all maritime snowpack, so unless you're in, or immediately following, a storm, your tool-set and knowledge base isn't going to be that informative since it refers to continental (or Rocky Mountain) snowpack. That was a pretty tough lesson for me: the things I thought I knew like the back of my hand were simply wrong out here.

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Hi Ben:

 

I don't think any organization is going to offer a class that skirts the "book" on any safety issue. I don't know anyone (myself included) who's taken a Level 1 class and said "that was a huge waste of time". There really are no shortcuts and I'm sure there are some classes offered around Portland that you'd learn a lot.

 

Also - get out and tour with guys who know more than you, ask a lot of questions and enjoy the process. Generally speaking, good days for skiing are bad days for climbing so that helps.

 

 

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It my understanding that to qualify as a Level 1 class they have to include *8 hours of training in the field.

 

*see post below by Chris, appears I'm off on the 8 hours in the field, more like 16.

Edited by Bronco

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Most Avy 1 classes are one day in the class, one day in the field.

 

Don't underestimate how much you'll learn by attending a level one class. For many, it's worth taking a couple of times.

 

If you live in NW Oregon - check out Mountain Savvy for class offerings.

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A typical Level 1 avalanche course is 3 days, or 24 hours of instruction, consisting of 8 hours indoors (either all at once, in two evening sessions, or spread out over the three days) and 2 days in the field. The AIARE curriculum has become the most standard.

 

There are also Avalanche Awareness clinics, which typically are anything less than a level 1 class, and can run the gamut of 2 days in the field with no classroom time to an hour-long power point presentation.

 

Alternatively, you can also get a group of friends together and hire a guide service like Timberline Mountain Guides or Oregon Ski Guides for private instruction. TMG/OSG also offers typical avalanche courses.

 

Just as a caveat, I've learned over time that many self-educated backcountry travelers have BIG GAPING holes in their avalanche education, and some serious misunderstandings of the "why" behind things happening. More than a few times someone has reassured me that they knew something, only to find that their understanding is very flawed and we now have to spend time backtracking to fill in those holes or correct those misunderstandings. Sometimes the most efficient way to make sure your student has a solid grasp of the material is to start at the beginning.

 

Feel free to post any follow up questions or PM me.

Edited by chris

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Just as a caveat, I've learned over time that many self-educated backcountry travelers have BIG GAPING holes in their avalanche education, and some serious misunderstandings of the "why" behind things happening. More than a few times someone has reassured me that they knew something, only to find that their understanding is very flawed and we now have to spend time backtracking to fill in those holes or correct those misunderstandings. Sometimes the most efficient way to make sure your student has a solid grasp of the material is to start at the beginning.

 

This is pretty much exactly why I'm looking to get professional instruction.

 

I just "registered" with Mountain Savvy for a 2-day Hood course... will have to wait for them to get ahold of me to let me know if my selected class dates are still available. I assume that's through TMG.

 

You say three days is more typical, Chris? Who would you recommend checking with?

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Mountain Savvy is NOT affiliated with Timberline Mountain Guides. Its a separate company altogether - and I know and respect the owner. However I work with Timberline Mountain Guides on occasions, and strongly recommend them to anyone. You can see Timberline Mountain Guide and Oregon Ski Guide's calendar on their websites.

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Ben, Ian Louis myself and another friend took the Mountain Savvy avy 1 course last year. To clarify it, the certification is the Canadian Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 with the option for a 3rd day to get the AIARE 1. But I think it goes a little over the AST 1 training wise, but that is the certificate you get. I think all of us would say we were very satisfied with it. And Glenn is allowed to operate on Hood for his class, whatever the situation with TMG is (actually now that I think of it I'm pretty sure on of our small-group instructors for the field day was a TMG guide?)

 

While I considered myself self-educated to a degree and had continued to explore the subject through research and observation of my own, I was aware there was plenty I did not know especially into technical details than what I did know. Sure, avoid a wind loaded slope of such and such degrees, etc, some of it is basic. And that I had not learned in a standardized best-practices way, but in piecemeal fashion.

 

The class was really helpful still to bring things together into a cohesive framework, simply refresh other topics, and educate new things, book wise and field wise. And further drill some of the most basic safety concepts that also apply to climbing decisions: heuristic traps, group size/social dynamics, compounding of multiple small bad decisions, etc.

Edited by Water

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@ Ben - not extactly. Mountain Savvy only provides avalanche courses and has a different permit than TMG's year-round guiding access. There are also a couple of other organizations that offer summer-time services.

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I wondered as well. And researched. The conclusion I came to was that that the case presented against Glenn by OMA the truth was probably somewhere in the middle, but maybe there was some conflicts of interest on Glenn's part. But it was ~10 years ago.

 

I wasn't able to find one iota of badmouthing of Glenn as a teacher or the instruction he provides. Being a climb ranger on hood and rainier over the duration he did gives him a solid background of experience to draw from. Locally speaking, he was the most affordable and easiest option for my peers and I to take a course through.

 

At the end of the day I didn't feel enough ethical 'qualms' in this instance to choose a different option--I wanted the class for avalanche education and nothing more.

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There is some discrepancy in the OMA account. If I remember correctly Glen moved to Rainier in 2000-2001, and started his business that winter. OMA's website is outdated - no updates to their conflict with Mountain Savvy since 2001, their database was last updated in 2008, and the last post in their forum was in April 2012.

Edited by chris

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