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  • Jim Urquhart

  • Chris Talvy digs a snow pit during Powderbird's Avalanche Safety...

    Jim Urquhart

    Chris Talvy digs a snow pit during Powderbird's Avalanche Safety Class in the backcountry of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.



If you go

What: Avalanche Level 1 course

When: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday; all day Saturday

Where: Friday lecture in Conference Room No. 4 at the CU Rec Center

Register: $50 for CU Recreation Center members. To register, call 303-492-6080 or e-mail

Click here for schedule

Wednesday’s expected snow will remind some to buy new boots or put snow tires back on the car. For skiers and snowboarders, it might be another reminder to take an avalanche course.

The University of Colorado’s Outdoor Program makes it a bargain for rec center members — $50 for a course in avy basics. The program’s first avalanche course of the season starts Friday.

“Realistically, if you’re going in the backcountry at all, being aware of avalanche risk is huge,” said Annaliese Seidel, assistant coordinator for the CU Outdoor Program. “Here in Colorado, avalanches can happen any season, after any snowfall, so it’s really important to get some education. And that’s one of the reasons we offer it for this discounted price.”

Similar avalanche courses can easily top $100.

The Outdoor Program offers two types of courses throughout the winter: avalanche level 1 and avalanche rescue clinic.

The level 1 course, the first of which starts Friday, includes classroom instruction on snowpack structure and stability, evaluating terrain, traveling safely and more. The next day, Saturday, is an optional class in the field on the old (closed) ski-resort slopes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“We dig a whole bunch of snow pits and talk about gradients, snow crystallization,” Seidel said. “And you’ll get some beacon use.”

The rescue clinic — just $25 — covers finding a buried skier with a beacon and performing a rescue.

“Most of the students I run into say, ‘I’ve skied the resorts, and this backcountry thing looks cool,'” Seidel said. “‘But can I do it safely, and can you teach me how to do that?’ So that’s what we’re going for.”

All of the courses are lead by students who are at least level-1 certified, but not necessarily certified by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education as instructors, which is a different certification. The instructor for this weekend’s course is a student who is level-3 certified and works as a mountain guide for Rainier Mountaineering, Inc, Seidel said.

The added bonus, she said, is the social aspect of the course.

“It’s a great way to meet other people who are into this,” Seidel said. “You know that they’re safe because they’ve taken the course as well.”

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