Have you ever stared at the snow-covered terrain surrounding the ski resort and wished you could ski there too? Or perhaps the crowds get a little too thick making you yearn for some quiet? For many people the desire to ski backcountry has spawned from both. However, Mother Nature demands respect, especially in backcountry snow, so venturing out of bounds without training isn’t a good idea.
Four years ago I was fortunate enough to ski Utah’s backcountry for the first time and knew I wanted more. More recently I joined the Interconnect Tour between Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Solitude. To say it was epic isn’t an exaggeration.
As much as I enjoyed both excursions, I knew not to go it alone. I simply don’t know enough to be safe. That’s why I got super excited when I found out that Brighton Resort is offering an Alpine Touring Workshop this season. It's YOUR job to educate yourself before heading into the backcountry and you should know that there are many resources across the entire state.
This course is designed for skiers and snowboarders who want to venture into the backcountry, but still need some basic skills. It’s not an avalanche course, so I still plan to take AVI 1 this season as well. Instead, this course focuses on the practical skills needed to travel in the backcountry, plus some fundamental avalanche awareness.
Here are more details from the Brighton Snowsports School website:
Brighton Snowsports School Alpine Touring Workshop
This workshop will cover many elements associated with backcountry ski touring and splitboarding, such as:
- Preparing for a winter day in the backcountry
- Using ski/snowboard touring equipment and skins
- Safely dealing with group dynamics
- Planning and setting skin tracks
- Understanding and using avalanche safety equipment
- Practicing beacon drills
- Increasing skiing/riding skills in variable off-piste conditions
- understanding basic avalanche hazards. *
This workshop is designed for skiers and snowboarders with at least solid intermediate skills and who are comfortable skiing/snowboarding on ungroomed intermediate (blue) terrain. If you have any question about your ability, contact the school to discuss before enrolling.
*Even though some avalanche awareness topics will be discussed, THIS IS NOT AN AVALANCHE SPECIFIC COURSE. Before entering the backcountry, skiers and snowboarders should take specific avalanche courses. For more info check http://www.brightonresort.com/mountain/ski-patrol/
This workshop will be held over 4 days: 1 evening lecture, 2 half-days on snow and 1 full-day on snow. The 2 half-days on snow will be at the Brighton Resort and the class will be skiing in and out-of-bounds. Full day lift passes will be included on these 2 days.
The final day will primarily be spent touring out-of-bounds applying your new skills.
Dates: Thur. Jan. 12th 6-9pm, Sat. Jan. 14th 9am-noon, Sat. Jan. 21st 9am-noon & Sat. Jan 28th 9am-4pm.
Rate: $299 and includes 2 full day lift passes at Brighton on Jan 14 & 21.
Instructors can make or break a workshop, so I always do my research before committing time and money. I requested bios from both instructors and got even more excited about attending. Both have jaw-dropping resumes that left me feeling privileged to have the opportunity to learn from them.
I don’t have enough room here to share all of their credentials, so I’ll stick to the highlights:
When I learned to ski four seasons ago, I was a nervous wreck. Keith Stebbings had the luck of being my instructor on day two, so I can attest to his ability to calm and guide even the most skittish newbie!
Keith began instructing snowsports in 1994 and is PSIA certified to teach Alpine, Telemark, and Snowboard. Additionally, he is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, and founded the Wallowa Avalanche Center in Joseph, Oregon, where he also served as lead forecaster and director.
Each year he volunteers as the Snow Safety Director for the ECX Sled-Dog Race, and is a researcher and writer with bylines in several avalanche publications. Keith occasionally conducts on-snow avalanche training for SAR Units, school groups, and the general public.
Keith lives in Brighton, Utah, skinning up the hill behind his cabin every chance possible, and frequently provides observations to the Utah Avalanche Center.
“He has guided families with small children and eighty-year-old adventurers,” says Hasty Johnson, “In all respects he is the best I have seen.”
Jean Pavillard is a professional mountain guide, ski instructor, and founder of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). He has worked as an instructor/ examiner for the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA), and has worked with the English, Ecuadorian, Chilean Mountain Guide Associations. Additionally, Jean is a professional member of the Swiss and American Mountain Guide Association.
Over the years Jean has lead clients all over the world, participated in many rescues, taught skiing, race Nordic, telemark and alpine skiing. Jean has climbed on seven continents from Antarctica to Everest (guided the 7 summits).
In 1984 he moved to Colorado where he directed the Crested Butte Ski School for five years. Additionally, he worked for the IFMGA, supervising AMGA development. He then developed the AMGA ski guides program.
Today he lives and skis in Utah to be close to his daughter, Madeleine, a coordinator, trainer, and instructor at Brighton Snowsports School and 2015 Swatch Freeride World Tour athlete.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore backcountry touring, this workshop could be a perfect start. If you choose to attend, I’ll see you there!
Photos curtesy of Brighton Snowsports School and Jean Pavillard.