Complete with room and board for the weekend, the program teaches women about safe backcountry travel techniques and how to become more confident when adventuring in avalanche terrain. The comprehensive course covers the same material as a standard Level I avalanche course but does so in a backcountry setting, making field sessions more readily accessible. The addition of some of the best female avalanche educators, and the lovely setting of Alta Lakes, the weekend is sure to be a memorable one.
Instructors Nicole Greene, Aleph Johnston-Bloom and Hilaree O'Neill will offer women the opportunity to ask the questions they perhaps don't or won't ask when they go into the backcountry with other people.
Greene, who has taught kayaking, climbing and other outdoor sports to all-women's groups, says that an all-women learning environment allows women to tap into those male-dominated sports, but in a nurturing, non-competitive atmosphere.
"An all-female learning environment can be a very empowering experience for women because it can enable women to realize that they can go out into the backcountry with other women and don't have to bring their boyfriends or husbands along to make the decisions for them," Greene says.
Babes in the Backcountry director Leslie Ross created Babes in the Backcountry to offer just that kind of open, supportive learning environment, the goal being to encourage more women to enjoy the freedom and empowerment backcountry adventure can impart.
"We want to get more women out in the backcountry by providing more opportunities for women to learn about the backcountry… and create more backcountry babes!" says Ross, who began educating women about backcountry sports seven years ago.
Babes in the Backcountry prides itself in having women teach other women different outdoor skills ranging from winter backcountry protocol to steep-slope skiing to mountaineering.
"Our courses are designed to challenge women to find their voice, especially in situations like backcountry skiing where it's easy for women to defer to the strongest voice," explains Ross.
Women joining the upcoming Avalanche School Level I course can begin to find that voice through education about decision-making, route finding and more with experienced outdoor educators Greene, Johnston-Bloom, and O'Neill.
Greene is the primary avalanche forecaster for the San Juan Outdoor School and is the director of the San Juan Field School's Avalanche Education Program. Greene is also a professional member of the American Avalanche Association (AAA), an instructor for the Telluride and Silverton avalanche schools, has worked as a professional ski patroller and dog handler for the Telluride Ski Patrol, and is a co-director of Telluride's Monday Night Avalanche Awareness Forum.
Johnston-Bloom is a member affiliate of the AAA and is currently a patroller and member of the snow safety team at Utah's Snow Basin ski resort. Johnston-Bloom joins the Babes' Avalanche School Level I course with previous avalanche instruction experience from the Silverton and Telluride avalanche schools. She also has worked as a highway forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Department of Transportation in Silverton.
Local backcountry babe O'Neill is a North Face-sponsored athlete who has earned a nation-wide reputation for her skills as a big mountain, backcountry ski mountaineer. This full-time Telluride resident is also a part-time heli-ski guide in Alaska.
Space for the upcoming Babes in the Backcountry Avalanche School Level I course is limited to 15, and there are just five spots left. Cost for the weekend is $385 and includes instruction, food and lodging at the Alta Lakes Observatory. Avalanche equipment will be available to demo. Women of all disciplines (alpine, snowboard, telemark) are welcome to participate.
For more information, call the San Juan Outdoor School at 728-4101.