Know the forecast

Always check the weather and avalanche danger before you head outdoors. For weather, look out for weather systems or late afternoon storms, which can leave your party stranded. For avalanches, check out , or call 303-275-5360 to hear a recording of the day's forecast for this zone.

If you love getting out there, way out there, be uber-safe and consider taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR, pronounced "woofer") or avalanche safety course -- or both.

WFR courses teach you how to make medical decisions in remote locations, even if you have no other medical experience. Because if you are far from a trailhead and someone gets injured, you will provide the first medical aid for your pal.

Avalanche safety courses focus on identifying and avoiding avalanche terrain, what type of gear to carry, how to rescue a companion and what types of conditions trigger avalanches. It's no joke; avalanches have occurred in every month of the year in Colorado, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

By the way: CU's Outdoor Program,, offers courses in avy safety, wilderness medicine and a whole bunch of other helpful stuff. Check them out.



Wilderness First Responder courses


In a WFR course, you'll learn skills like how to respond to spinal cord injuries, head injuries, fractures and dislocations. You'll also learn how to treat and manage heat, altitude and cold illnesses as well as bites, stings and poisonings.

Once you take the 80-hour class and pass a written and practical exam, having wilderness first responder knowledge and certification can help you get a job as a trip leader, mountain guide, ranger, ski patroller or other outdoor professions.

A member of Rocky Mountain Rescue rigs part of a high line to help rescue a climber who fell on the Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Canyon.
A member of Rocky Mountain Rescue rigs part of a high line to help rescue a climber who fell on the Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Canyon. (MARK LEFFINGWELL)

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is hosting several Wilderness First Responder courses on CU's campus in the next year: December 13-2, January 3-12, March 22-30, May 20-29, June 20-29, July 08-17, July 25-August 3.

WFR classes usually range from 72 to 80 hours of training and cost anywhere from $500 to $800.

For more information:


Avalanche safety courses


The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education has created a series of avalanche safety courses, which are now being taught throughout the world and lucky for you, in Boulder.

The nonprofit group was founded in 1998 to educate the public about avalanches and save lives.

There are three levels of courses created by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, and they all meet guidelines set by the American Avalanche Association.

The AIARE level one course provides avalanche basics, travel technique, rescue and decision-making strategies. The level two course provides more technical and scientific information about how and why avalanches occur, and teaches students about snow stability and the forecasting process. Level three teaches students about high-level decision making and operational planning.

Here are a few places to check out avy safety classes in and around Boulder:

Colorado Mountain School


CMS offers a range of avy courses, from free clinics around Boulder on-snow basics to AIARE Level Two courses, which require four days out in the field in Rocky Mountain National Park studying snow science, forecasting, snow stability and more.

And if you've had plenty of avy education and just need a refresher -- good idea -- CMS has one-day refresher courses, too.

Dates and times for CMS classes are still TBD, but check out their site as winter gets closer for more info:

Alpine World Ascents

Boulder-based Alpine World Ascents offers plenty of avy courses taught by AIARE-certified instructors, from basics to an intro to backcountry touring and avalanche awareness class for $145-$400 per person.


Eldora Mountain Resort


Eldora's avalanche school typically offers two AIARE level one courses at the beginning of every year in January and February for around $300. Each session includes two classroom days and two field days.



--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.