MST - Mentored Ski Tour
The MST, or Mentored Ski Tour, is a unique program from Blackbird Mountain Guides that is all about YOU. You are in charge, from planning the trip to debriefing the day. You’ll build the plan, lead the trailhead check, pick an up-track, decide where and when to make snow and weather observations, and choose the descent line. You call the shots, we’re there to get you back on track if you stray off course. By engaging our years of experience in avalanche terrain assessing snowpacks, weather, human factors and other hazards, you'll take your backcountry decision making to the next level.
The MST builds decision making skills in avalanche terrain beyond what you get from a typical AIARE/Avalanche Level 1 course. These programs are for private groups of up to 6 skiers who travel, or intend to travel, together in the backcountry.
The goal of the MST is to hone the participants’ decision making and leadership skills by offering critique to decisions made in planning and while travelling in the field. 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 you in the lead, the complexity of each decision becomes apparent. An expert guide is on your side to examine your choices and decision making process which allows you to build your experience quickly through understanding the merits of your decisions, good or bad.
The MST 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.
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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)
Know Before You Go
North Lake Tahoe, CA
The Blackbird MST is moderate physical difficulty, but requires skiing off piste terrain proficiently.
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