Avalanche Rescue in the San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains | Colorado
Trip Highlights

Top reasons to upgrade your skills in the San Juan Mountains

  • Trip Highlight

    The Telluride ski resort makes the approach to the backcountry a cakewalk

  • Trip Highlight

    Carve down the San Juans’ ample and varied slopes in world-class ski conditions

  • Trip Highlight

    Refresh your avalanche safety knowledge in the magnificent San Juan Mountains

If you’re tired of crowded resorts, why not seek peace and solitude in Colorado’s breathtaking wilderness? The powder stashes in the San Juan Mountains are deep and the low-density snowpack is a delight to ride. The views are pretty cool, too—you’ll be skiing along massive dormant volcanoes and frozen waterfalls, with thick forests and scenic lakes as the backdrop. And the fact that the range only has one major ski resort–the one in Telluride–means that you’ll likely have San Juan’s slopes all to yourself! However, skiing in the wild and remote backcountry can be a double-edged sword. Avalanches hit suddenly, and they hit hard. Whether you’re a total rookie or you’ve had your share of avalanche education, it’s always wise to keep up-to-date with the most current avalanche safety practices. Learn more about the importance of avalanche safety in the backcountry from Rob Coppolillo, an AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide.

Season

December through March

Nearest city

The course is held just outside of Telluride, CO

Duration

1 day

Skill level

Beginner to advanced

Itineraries

Choose how you spend your day

Group Silverton Avalanche Rescue Course

Full-day

Join a group of fellow backcountry enthusiasts, and spend a full day learning the latest in companion rescue tools and techniques! Head to the breathtaking San Juan Mountains and let an experienced and certified avalanche instructor teach you fundamental avalanche protocols, such as scene size-up, transceiver search, and patient extraction. And when you grasp the basics, upgrade your knowledge even further with realistic rescue scenarios!

Private Silverton Avalanche Rescue Course

Full-day

This stand-alone private course will teach you everything you need to know about keeping safe in avalanche situations. Join a seasoned instructor on San Juan’s majestic slopes and learn or review the basics of companion rescue, such as avalanche safety kit usage, strategic probing or shoveling, and proper equipment management. Further your skills with practice in the form of realistic rescue scenarios, and become a safer skier in the process!

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Learning outcomes

You’ll meet your guide in the field at 8:30 am. Between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm, you’ll work on avalanche safety fundamentals based on the Silverton Avalanche School. Here’s what you’ll learn:

    • Avalanche rescue skill modules
    • Pack contents
    • Transceiver search techniques
    • Effective probing and pinpoint search skills
    • Individual and group strategic shoveling

Following a short break, you’ll continue your course with:

    • Avalanche rescue scenarios
    • Individual and group scenarios
    • Avalanche victim care basics

Return to Telluride and close the course with a debrief at 4 pm.

Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, please refer to Colorado’s COVID-19 travel guidelines.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • A pre-course self-paced online study module
    • A full day in the field
    • A one-year Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card upon completion of the course
    • Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CIAC) membership upon completion of the course

What’s not included:

    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
    • Transportation
    • Accommodation
    • Food and snacks

How fit do I need to be?

In order to get the most of this adventure, you need to have a moderate level of fitness. You will be on your feet for a full day. You will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on challenging blue or black level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.

Prerequisites:
Students must be able to travel in the snow and bring appropriate equipment for traveling on snow to class. Skiers must be able to hike for several hours at a time while carrying a small pack. All participants should be comfortable traveling in the snow while carrying touring gear. There are no other prerequisites.

What equipment do I need to bring?

For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:

    • Alpine touring skis, telemark skis, or splitboard with skins (can be rented)
    • Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
    • Avalanche safety equipment (can be rented):
      • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
      • Lightweight snow shovel
      • Avalanche probe

For personal items, we recommend bringing:

    • Ski helmet
    • Sun hat
    • Buff or neck gaiter
    • Heavyweight, medium weight, and lightweight gloves
    • Hand warmers
    • Sunglasses
    • Ski goggles
    • Light fleece hoody
    • Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex recommended)
    • Puffy jacket
    • Ski pants (Gore-Tex recommended)
    • Down jacket or vest
    • Synthetic or wool base layers and underwear
    • Ski socks
    • Water bottles and 2L of water
    • Thermos with a warm beverage — optional
    • Food you can eat on-the-go
    • First-aid kit
    • Sunscreen and lip balm
    • Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-40L backpack)
    • Camera — optional

Can I rent equipment?

All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

    • Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel, and probe from your guide
    • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots, and poles can be rented from your guide
    • Splitboards can be rented in Telluride

Ski rental locations are in Telluride and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and pricing:

    • For the standard courses, the max guest-to-guide ratio is 6:1. Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows. A minimum of 4 people is required for a standard course to run.
    • For the private course, the max client to guide ratio is 6:1. The costs per person decrease as the group grows, so it’s the perfect opportunity to take a course with friends and family.

Courses in the San Juan Mountains can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
    • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis.

If your group has skiers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to Telluride, CO, in the San Juan Mountains, most people fly into Denver International Airport 6 hours away. From there, you can rent a car and drive to Telluride, take a direct flight to Telluride, or fly to Monrose and take a shuttle there.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, whether that’s at the guide shop in Telluride or a predetermined location. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.

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