Avalanche Skills Tour
A ski tour where the objective is not just the descent, but exploring the decisions your guide is making at every turn, the Avalanche Skills Tour is a unique program offered by Blackbird Mountain Guides. Much like its sister tour, the Mentored Ski Tour, it is a ski objective that incorporates learning outcomes into a fun ski tour.
By anticipating and observing the decisions your guide makes, you can hone in on the important factors that affect decision making. The choice of objective, where and how the uptrack is set, which observations to make and how to interpret them, and the choice of descent line are all discussed at length while moving through the terrain with the goal of having a rewarding ski descent.
The AST is the perfect progression from the basic skills of the AIARE 1 and provides insight into the best ways to build successful ski tours on your own. It’s also a great refresher if it’s been a while since you’ve taken the Level 1 or you want to develop leadership within your backcountry skiing group. The AST is even useful for expert level “avalanche enthusiasts” who may have taken a Level 2 course, but want to improve their skills during uncertain times.
The goal of the AST is for guides to demonstrate their decision making process and how they gather and process information in the field. The topics that will be explored are:
Trip Planning. How did you choose this objective? Is the objective appropriate for the avalanche and weather hazards? What are the concerns of the objective (For avalanche and otherwise)? How and where can we gather information along the way? What is our plan if something does go wrong?
Trailhead Departure Check. Does everyone have the right rescue gear and layers? Beacon Check?
Route Finding. What is the best way to tackle the terrain for safety and efficiency?
Track Setting. How can we make this track easy to use for our team, but also efficient to get to our objective?
Descent Choices. Which line will we take to get down? What are the concerns and options if something slides?
With your guide demonstrating and explaining key decisions they make in the field, you can observe and absorb a process for making your own. Guides are constantly making observations and prioritizing information, filtering out the noise and focusing on the most important factors for safety, efficiency and fun. By watching and hearing how they do that, you can improve your backcountry game and get your objectives done in good style.
The AST is for backcountry skiers who have taken an AIARE 1 (or equivalent A3 Avalanche Level 1 course) and ideally ARC (Avalanche Rescue Course) and are looking to become more confident and rely less on others for decision making in the backcountry.
Contact Us Here to Schedule Dates for a private AST today.
This program begins with email correspondence between you and your guide. You will begin by sending your objectives and route plans to your guide. If there is a major risk assessment problem, your guide will consult and steer you toward a more appropriate objective.
8:00 am Meet your guide and review the plan for the day. Trailhead Departure Check/Beacon Check.
8:00 am You are calling the shots. You decide where to go, the route to get there, the observations to make along the way, and key decision points. Your guide will ask questions and provide insight to help prompt you if your uncertainty is leading to increased risk, but the goal is for you to gather information and make decisions.
3:30 pm We will try to close the program with a margin of daylight remaining when we hit the trailhead. When we’re safely back at the cars, we’ll review the day and debrief the decisions you made throughout the day. This is very helpful for building useful experience quickly!
Backcountry Touring Gear
❏ Alpine Touring Skis or Splitboard - Light to Midweight Setup with “Tech Bindings”
❏ Alpine Touring Boots or Splitboard Compatible Boots; Scarpa F1
❏ Climbing Skins - Mohair Mix is Best; Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix,
❏ Touring Backpack - A Pack with Avalanche Tools Pocket; BD Cirque 35
❏ Ski Poles - Lightweight, Adjustable Poles with Baskets; BD Expedition 3 Poles
❏ Ski Helmet - Lightweight S
❏ Avalanche Beacon - Digital Avalanche Transceiver; Black Diamond Guide Recon BT
❏ Avalanche Shovel - Collapsible, Aluminum Shovel; Backcountry Access BT2 Shovel
❏ Avalanche Probe - Quickdraw Style Probe; Backcountry Access Stealth 300
Head and Neck Layers
❏ Sun Hat - A Baseball Hat; Blackbird Mountain Guides Logo Hat
❏ Sunglasses - Dark Lens Glasses with Side Coverage; Julbo Shield
❏ Goggles - Ski Goggles with a Storm Lens; Julbo Aerospace Reactive
❏ Warm Hat - Lightweight Warm Hat that Fits Under Your Helmet;
❏ Neck Gaiters - Light to Midweight Neck Gaiters; Buff or your favorite Face Masks
***These Are Required as Covid-19 Face Coverings
Upper Body and Hand Layers
❏ Long Sleeve Base Layer - Lightweight, Synthetic/Wool; Patagonia SunHoody
❏ 2 Insulating Top Layers - Light to Midweight Insulation Layers; Patagonia R1 & Nano Air
❏ Puffy - Midweight Down or Synthetic with Hood; Patagonia Fitzroy or similar
❏ Hardshell Jacket, Hooded - Waterproof, Gore-Tex, NOT insulated; Arc’Teryx Alpha FL
❏ Light Gloves - Light to Mid Weight for Warm Temps; Flylow John Henry Gloves, BD Tour
❏ Midweight Gloves - Mid to Heavy Weight for Cold Conditions; BD Legend
❏ Sports Bra - Wool/Synthetic;
Lower Body and Foot Layers
❏ Socks - Midweight Wool/Synthetic; Darn Tough Via Ferrata
❏ Underwear - Wool/Synthetic
❏ Long Underwear - Wool/Synthetic “Long Johns”; Patagonia Capilene Air
❏ Softshell Ski Pants - Breathable, Weather Resistant for Fair Weather; OR Trailbreaker II
❏ Vented Hardshell Ski Pants - Waterproof Pants for Extreme Weather; Flylow Compound
Food and Water
❏ Nalgene Water Bottle - Hard Sided Bottle; Nalgene 16oz-32oz Wide Mouth Bottle
❏ Soft Water Bottle 1.5L - Flexible Water Bladder; Hydrapak Flux 1.5L
***Please bring at least one hard sided water bottle.
❏ Snacks - Enough Snacks for the Day. There will be no lunch break so snacks must be
convenient and easy to eat.
❏ Sun Screen (SPF 30 minimum)
❏ Lip Balm (with SPF)
❏ Hand Sanitizer
❏ Toilet Paper
❏ First Aid/blister Kit
❏ Chemical Hand Warmers
❏ Hydration System - Flexible Water Bladder with Hose; Hydrapak, Camelback, Platypus
Blackbird Mountain Guides will supply all of the group gear for the trip, including:
✓ Guide’s First Aid Kits
✓ Wag Bags (Solid Human Waste Disposal Bags)
✓ Snow Observation Equipment (Snowsaws, Loops, Crystal Cards, Etc)
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