Skiing the Backcountry this Season? Know Before You Go: Take Advantage of Local Avalanche Classes & Training 

Skinning up a mountainside blanketed in untouched snow? Stopping at the top to catch your breath while soaking in 360-degree views off the Continental Divide before making fresh tracks through deep powder? Sign us up! Backcountry skiing and riding is an unparalleled avenue for experiencing the mountains in winter, and it's right out our back door. Berthoud Pass is full of backcountry riding opportunities--some might argue the best in the Rockies. Whether lapping the Parking Lot Glades or skiing the chutes, ski touring is a great way to explore new terrain, grow your skill set, connect with friends, and get a good work out in away from the hustle and bustle of town. It's understandable why the backcountry experience has won the hearts of so many!

If earning your turns is your love language, you're in luck--local avalanche classes and training can prepare you to enter the backcountry safely. While we wish it was as easy as getting the gear, strapping on your skins, and starting to hike, enjoying terrain outside of the resort requires knowledge and skills to prevent avalanches and to respond wisely in the event of an avalanche. Take advantage of our local resources to get ready to hit the trail. 


Friends of Berthoud Pass leads the avalanche awareness and safety charge in our area. A non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of public recreation on Berthoud Pass, FOBP promotes safety education, backcountry access and environmental stewardship. Each year, they offer free avalanche awareness presentations that follow standards set by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) and the American Avalanche Association (AAA). Their classes take place throughout the Front Range as well as two virtual classrooms this year. Their annual full-day avalanche education and backcountry community gathering at Winter Park, the Beacon Bash, is coming up December 10th, so be sure to be there to grow in your knowledge and meet some new backcountry enthusiasts. The culminating event for the 2022-23 season is the last weekend in January, with two on-snow day-long sessions that give some hands-on time with experts to practice avalanche safety. Check out their list of events to see the (free!) opportunities the Friends of Berthoud Pass offers.


The awareness classes and in-the-field sessions are a great start, and we are so grateful to have access to them! But they are not intended to replace AIARE training. Our friends at the Colorado Mountain School offer certified training close to home! Combining theoretical concepts and experiential learning, they set you up to make informed decisions as you enjoy time off the beaten path. From three-day in-person courses to hybrid (online and in-person) courses to hut trips, they have all the options for training you'll need to safely head out into the backcountry. They offer four Broome Hut trips this season, giving you experience in the field right on Berthoud Pass.  Level 1 and 2 trainings take place nearby in Rocky Mountain National Park (based in Estes Park) and Frisco. You can even check out their free one-hour online avalanche awareness course to get a preview before signing up for training!

By the end of the AIARE Level 1, you'll be ready to 

  • Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain.
  • Effectively use the AIARE Decision Making Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting
  • Demonstrate effective companion rescue.
  • Identify types of avalanches and their characteristics
  • Explain how avalanches form and release
  • Describe primary start-zone factors
  • Identify avalanche terrain
  • Spot and avoid common trigger points
  • Plan, prepare, and navigate a trip
  • Apply group decision-making skills
  • Demonstrate avalanche rescue techniques
  • Be aware of weather, terrain, and snowpack considerations (Remember to always check Colorado Avalanche Information Center for current conditions before you head out!)

You'll leave your course equipped to make informed decisions and know how to tackle the backcountry safely (and it's likely you'll meet a few friends you'll end up skinning with)!


We hope you get the opportunity to spend some time in the backcountry this season! Being able to explore the natural beauty of our area via touring is just another reason we're grateful to call this place home. Feel free to reach out with any questions about avalanche safety resources--we'd love to point you in the right direction!

Posted by Leah Bishop on


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