AIARE 1 Course, Lake Placid, NY

Last night I got home after conducting an AIARE 1 Course with fellow guide and manager of our Lake Placid EMS Schools location, Dan Sandberg over in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. It was great to work with Dan in an area I was not familiar with. Even better, a size-able Nor’ Easter commonly called “Nemo” in the major news outlets arrived the same night I did and laid down close to two feet of snow for us to recreate on.

Northeast Nemo blizzard expected snowfall totals

Dan had arranged a great classroom space at the Adirondack “Loj”, a great facility run by the Adirondack Mountain Club, very similar to our local AMC Highland Center and Joe Dodge Lodge.

Getting settled in for some morning classroom on Day 1
Getting settled in for some morning classroom on Day 1

11 students, including EMS Schools Guide Dustin Ulrich, 3 EMS Store Guides from our Middletown, RI and Nanuet, NY stores, an educational trip leader and hut manager for ADK, an Adventure Education Major, a couple military guys, and all around winter sports enthusiasts all helped create a great environment to start learning about decision making in the back-country.

On our 2nd Day we toured up the Memorial Highway on the north-side of Whiteface Mountain.

Ski-cutting a low angle slope
Ski-cutting a low angle slope

Along the way we practiced making weather observations and quick snow-pack observations like pole probing, ski-cutting, and boot penetration in the cold new storm snow that had blanketed the area. Unstable snow was definitely around as we experienced some whumping and were able to get small shooting cracks on some convex areas off to the side of the road. We were quite safe as we kept our slope angle well below anything risky. After looking more closely at the snow at 3,800 feet and learning about tilt tests, hand hardness scale, and compression tests, we enjoyed the 3.26 mile glide back down to the parking lot.

Whiteface Tour
Whiteface Tour

Later I shared my field observations with the group and we talked about the relevancy of our results.

Not the best handwriting... I know
Not the best handwriting… I know

On the 3rd day we spent some time in the classroom looking at some avalanche terrain and figuring out possible route selections based on conditions, and talked about travel techniques to help further mitigate risk. One of the bigger challenges of carrying out an avalanche course in the Adirondacks is the access to the actual avalanche paths is a bit remote, so we decided it would be more valuable to get some more Companion Rescue practice in on the last day and headed out across Heart Lake to a nice back-country ski trail to run through some more detailed rescue scenarios.

Heading out across Heart Lake
Heading out across Heart Lake

I took some video of one of the scenarios and uploaded it here:

http://youtu.be/kc3JTIaqtoU

A disclaimer, we only had the recent 18 inches of snow to practice on so we could not bury the beacons at a realistic depth. I also threw a big curve-ball at this group with a surface victim which ended up creating some great discussion on the realities of a possible rescue. The next run these three did went a lot smoother. Everyone in the course walked away feeling this was something they could practice a lot more of with their friends, and that was exactly what we hoped!

I must admit I was concerned about meeting all the learning objectives of an AIARE 1 Course in an area I wasn’t familiar with especially with very low snow depth in relation to seasonal norms there. Based on the course feedback forms we received we met our goals, and that, combined with co-teaching with a new instructor, and excellent constructive feedback from the participants, made this course a huge personal learning experience and I’m excited to return next winter for another course in the Dacks’!

Now it’s time to start prepping for the AIARE 2 Course that starts this Friday.

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Safe travels,

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