Over the past few years, as my days filled with rocking groomers have become less challenging, I’ve found myself yearning for more days filled with backcountry adventures. Lofty dreams of floating around on my fat pow skis fill the days at my desk, while days away from my desk are spent dipping in and out of tree runs at some of my favorite ski spots.
However, one crucial concern lies in the way of my exploring more backcountry terrain—safety. Backcountry travel presents a serious avalanche risk, and the only way to best prepare is by attending a course and gaining valuable information and hands-on experience. Our favorite go-to? Backcountry Babes, an organization run by women, for women.
In January, I attended the Backcountry Basics course in Breckenridge, Colorado. This two-day course breaks down pertinent information for anyone looking to safely and responsibly explore the backcountry. Day one began with an overview of snow safety, where to find the most accurate and up-to-date information, and how to read and study the forecast. The Babes staff was full of knowledge, and the instructors had credentials such as ski patrol certification. In a classroom environment, it can be easy to feel as though some questions that come to mind are less than brilliant. However, the beauty in the courses offered by the Babes is the unique, welcoming, and friendly setting. No question was too small or insignificant. Everyone in the course felt more than comfortable asking whatever came to mind, and the instructors answered thoroughly and in depth.
Day two began with an early morning. With snow coming down throughout the day, we buckled down once again with more classroom time before heading out. Not only did we study that day’s forecast, but we learned how to confidently read avalanche reports and how to best choose the route of least danger.
Along with learning the basics of snow science, the Backcountry Babes experts also give a comprehensive breakdown of essentials for a day in the backcountry. Although such gear is meant to be easy to use, it is important that skiers practice using the equipment before exploring the backcountry. (Don’t have all the gear yourself? No problem—the Babes are sponsored by Backcountry Access and G3 and have the gear you’ll need during a course.) We’ve all been out in the great outdoors wishing we’d somehow packed differently to lessen our load. With the Babes having taken the time to specifically break down the best way to pack as a female, keeping our weight distribution in mind, my pack became significantly easier to manage.
As the snow piled up, we left the comfort of our warm classroom and dove into some search and rescue skills. Once everyone felt comfortable using beacons, shovels, and probes, it was time for the real fun to begin! We arrived at the trailhead of Baldy Mountain, put on our skins, applied our lip balm, and hit the trail. While we were lucky enough to get fluffy conditions, the act of simply skinning up a mountain is no small feat. Our amazing guides, Kirsten and Leslie, remained super supportive, and kept us motivated throughout the trip. Once nearing our point of descent, fresh fallen powder greeted us, and it was all buttery goodness from there.
Fun, noncompetitive, educational, and encouraging are just a few of the benefits you can expect from a Backcountry Babes course. Earning your powder turns is just an added bonus.
Interested in a Backcountry Babes course? With expert instructors and inviting environments, you’ll want to take full advantage of all the educational courses they have to offer. For more information and to sign up, visit the Backcountry Babes website. For avalanche forecast and safety tips in Colorado, visit CAIC. To check out essential backcountry and ski touring gear, visit BCA and G3.