AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course. After nearly a decade ski guiding locally and in the alps, Olivia decided it was time to address what she sees as shortage of education opportunities for women breaking into backcountry skiing. In many ski towns there is a significant population of women interested in ski touring but still not quite making it out there for various reasons. Common themes Olivia has heard among women in her community include fear of not skiing well enough, discomfort about avalanche hazards, concerns about decision making in their current ski group, and the simple need for a bit of professional instruction in specific skills related to ski touring. Key to the any backcountry ski experience is that it should be fun and well-organized.
This course aims to give you the skill set you need to organize your own tours or join an existing group for a day of backcountry skiing. By the end you will have an increased ability to evaluate the skill set of those you consider touring with. This can also be great training for something like our Haute Route Ski Tour. Your guides are constantly managing hazards related to the snowpack and discuss each decision with the group. This is not an avalanche course and is intended to complement skills covered there as we plan and undertake backcountry tours.
Our women’s backcountry ski camps are taught over a long-weekend with evenings spent in the luxury of the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort. Sleeping Lady sits outside the business of Leavenworth and is the areas premier overnight resort. Each day will be spent skiing with all meals prepared by Sleeping Lady and dinners and breakfasts taken in their main dining room. With the food and lodging taken care of we are freed to spend non-skiing time relaxing and working on skills before and after each day of skiing. Tours take place at various locations near Stevens Pass and Leavenworth with a portion of the training taking place at the ski area at Stevens Pass. Possible ski venues include the back country surrounding Stevens Pass Ski area, various tours along US highway 2, and Blewett Pass. The focus is more on touring and less on lecture.
The course is capped to provide for a good experience. We will likely split into two touring groups if the trip fills to maximize enjoyment on the tour. Generally the two groups tour in the same area, but ski and climb separately to make things more enjoyable.
Day 1: Meet at 8:00 am at Stevens Pass Ski area dressed for a day of ski touring. In advance of the trip our office will contact you to go over the gear you will need for the course and for this first day of skiing. We will gather in the lodge for a short orientation and then hit the slopes for a day that will begin in the ski area and then explore some of the excellent back country adjacent to Stevens Pass. This first day is an opportunity for the group to ski together and work on the variety of skills related to using touring gear. We will cover all basic binding and boot functions, discuss how to dress for uphill and downhill skiing, and provide pointers for skiing in variable conditions. In area skills will include making sure people are comfortable negotiating steeper terrain using skills like outward facing kick turns, utilizing the falling leaf, and applying more basic skills like the good old fashioned stem-christie turn when needed. Once in the side country we will go over the most efficient way to transition from skiing to skinning and then skinning to skiing downhill. We will perfect our various uphill kick-turns, and learn to skin up and ski down as a group to maximize safety and communication. We will briefly review beacon function and touch on avalanche rescue procedure. At the end of the day we will be sure to make it to Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth in time for a quick hot tub preceding an amazing meal prepared by the Sleeping Lady chef. This evening we will work on our route planning skills as we map out a tour suitable for the current conditions.
Skills Covered on Day 1 - Women's Backcountry Ski Camp
- Review beacon function & range check
- How to dress for ski touring
- Putting together a light touring pack for side country touring
- Boot, clothing, and binding adjustments for downhill skiing
- Boot, clothing, and binding adjustments for uphill skiing
- Making efficient transitions between uphill and downhill and the reverse
- Safely getting down slopes that feel steep, icy, or complicated
- Making kick turns when going uphill or when changing direction going downhill
- Identifying slope strengths and weaknesses
- Developing ski proficiency in challenging conditions
- Brief avalanche rescue procedure review
- Route planning using maps, compass, route log, guidebooks, and internet
Day 2: Meet at 7:30 am for breakfast and review the weather and avalanche conditions. We will then drive to the trailhead for our ski tour and head into the backcountry. Today we will start to focus on moving efficiently and making smooth transitions so that we can cover more terrain and get in more skiing without feeling rushed. Our goal for the day will be to ski between 3500 and 4000 feet as we share some of our favorite powder stashes in the Central Cascades. While we will have touched on all of the basic skills on day 1, this day will give us lots of time to fine-tune those skills. Efficiency leads to speed, which in turns allows us to tackle bigger objectives at a relaxed pace. At the conclusion of the tour we will return to Sleeping Lady, make use of the various spa options, and have another nice diner together. Following dinner we will review the tour plan for day 3 and talk about what we observed with regard to weather and the snowpack on our tour today. Olivia will have a short presentation focusing on some of the wonderful places where she has had the opportunity to ski tour in various spots around the globe.
Skills Covered on Day 2 - Women's Backcountry Ski Camp
- Using the terrain to your advantage on the uphill
- Group backcountry travel skills
- Track setting and pacing
- Safely getting down challenging slopes in an efficient manner
- Increasing transition speed to increase touring time
- Taking care of hydration and nutrition needs
- Route finding and time calculations
Day 3: We will get an early start today as we head out on our final tour. Everyone will check out in the morning so that those traveling out of the area will be free to move toward the city if needed at the end of the day's tour. Following breakfast at Sleeping Lady we will drive to the trailhead and start our tour. By now the participants will be doing all of the trailhead safety checks as well as doing some of the track setting if desired. On this day we will focus on getting in a solid day of touring with the goal of climbing and skiing at least 4000. On all tours the goals is to find good snow with suitable stability and you begin to understand how critical aspect and elevation are in an environment with constantly changing conditions. We will aim to be done touring by 4:30 pm and then briefly wrap up the week at Stevens Pass.
Skills Covered on Day 3 - Women's Backcountry Ski Camp
- How to undertake a big tour without rushing
- Polishing various uphill kick turns
- Speedy Skin Removal
- How to follow and check your whiteout navigation plan
- How to make a big tour fun and relaxed
- Training strategies for future ski touring
Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort. Participants each have their own bed in the stand alone Rookery Cabin. Included in your stay are dinners and breakfasts served in the Kingfisher Restaurant prepared by the Sleeping Lady Chef. Pack lunches will be included for all three days. Participants are responsible for alcoholic beverage purchases at Sleeping Lady. You also have full use of the Sleeping Lady Spa which includes an outdoor hot tub & dry sauna.
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses works best when coupled with additional training in ski touring. Ideally participants will have completed their L1 course in advance of the touring course as the women's ski camp references some of the skills covered in the avalanche course that are not covered in depth on the touring course. This allows for more time touring and avoids replicating topics covered during your avalanche course. We offer these avalanche courses most weekends from early December through early March. Avalanche courses taken with another provider are also perfect assuming it was an AIARE Level 1. If you choose to take your avalanche course with us, we can offer a 10% discount on your avalanche course if also registered for our Women's Backcountry Ski Camp.