Level 2 Avalanche Course

This year our Level 2 Avalanche Courses will be hut-based. This four-day course is designed for advanced backcountry skiers and riders with a minimum of two full seasons of touring experience. Meticulously refined based upon feedback from previous course graduates, this capstone experience represents the pinnacle of training for recreationalists in the United States. Students are required to have completed a Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue course prior to enrollment. 

For this course, Mountain Trip utilizes Silverton Avalanche School’s (SAS) Level 2 experiential curriculum, which is rooted in international best practice and offered in the unparalleled field location of the San Juan Mountains. It is led by preeminent snow safety and mountain professionals. Mountain Trip and SAS are proud to offer the most comprehensive, robust, and student-centered Level 2 experience available for backcountry recreationalists. This course encourages students to identify their needs and areas for additional skill development as instructors support students via individualized training and learning goals. 

Open Level 2 Course (Thelma Hut) - Register Open Level 2 Course (OPUS Hut) - Register

Additional Course Info

  • Winter backcountry travel skills on skis or a splitboard are a prerequisite to taking this course, as we will cover terrain that moves up and downhill in variable conditions not found on a ski resort. (If you’re looking to learn basic backcountry travel skills, check out our Intro to Backcountry Skiing trip).
  • If you are snowshoeing, you must book a private trip as an individual or with a self-selected group.
  • We have rental gear available (see below); however, we strongly suggest bringing and practicing with your own backcountry kit.
    • Beacon, shovel and probe (and ski backpack upon request) – $50 for the course.
    • Ski touring kit (includes skis, boots, skins and poles) – $100 for the first day; $50 for each day after.
  • Pre-course online materials and a mandatory assessment will be provided to students 10 days before the course begins. 
  • After the course has concluded, each student will receive a one-year Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card and membership to Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

We know courses can be cost prohibitive, especially for those living in mountain towns with a high cost of living. For assistance, check out the PI Avalanche Fund, which offers scholarships to individuals looking to further their avalanche education, and memorializes our good friend and former guide, Peter Inglis.

If you have questions or are unsure of where to start in your backcountry progression, please contact the Mountain Trip office at [email protected] or (970) 369-1153.

Level 2 Avalanche Course – Hut Based

Pre-Course: Self-paced online study module (optional)

Day 1

8:30 a.m. Meet at Classroom Location

  • Introductions

  • Course overview

  • Gear check

9a.m.-12 p.m. Avalanche Rescue Assessment

  • Companion rescue drills

  • Feedback and skills refinement

12-4 p.m. Travel to Hut

6 p.m. Group Dinner at Hut

Day 2

8 a.m. Breakfast at Hut

8-10 a.m. Content Review 

  • Weather

  • Snowpack

  • Terrain

  • Tour Planning

10 a.m.-12 p.m. Depart for Simple Tour 

12-4 p.m. Field Session: Snowpack Assessment

4 p.m. Debrief and Learning Reflection

*Day 2 Homework: Small group tour planning

Day 3

8 a.m. Breakfast at Hut

8:30-9:30 a.m. Review Tour Plans

9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Full-Day Tour

  • Advanced snowpack observations

  • Advanced terrain observation

  • Leadership and decision-making

4 p.m. Debrief and Learning Reflection

Day 4

9a.m.-4 p.m. Full-Day Backcountry Tour

  • Complex route navigation

  • Terrain management

  • Snowpack assessment

4 p.m. Course Debrief and Closing Remarks

Please note: Course itineraries are approximate and subject to change due to weather conditions, group abilities, and other elements outside of our control.

The Level 2 Avalanche Course is the capstone experience for recreational avalanche education in the United States, and is designed to equip recreational backcountry users with the skills required to lead in avalanche terrain. As such, it’s important that students come into the course with the requisite experience and skill set to get the most out of their time in the field.

At a minimum, students should:

  • Have a minimum of two full seasons of backcountry touring experience.
  • Have experience making terrain assessments in avalanche terrain.
  • Have experience making snowpack assessments, such as digging snowpits.
  • Be able to safely descend challenging to complex terrain in a variety of snow conditions.
  • Be able to competently perform avalanche rescue skills quickly.

These skills are required for participants because they are fundamental to traveling efficiently and safely through the mountains. Participants should have these skills dialed before they consider themselves ready for the course. We want you to be focused primarily on learning as much as you can from your Level 2 Avalanche Course, and having these foundational skills will ensure that you can.

If you don’t feel ready for your Level 2 Avalanche Course, or are unfamiliar with any of these aspects of backcountry skiing or riding, that’s OK! We offer a full-day Intro to Backcountry Skiing trip, as well as the standard Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue courses designed to give you with the education you need to be better equipped for the backcountry.

The Level 2 Avalanche Course provides a comprehensive, highly personalized learning experience that focuses on our students’ ability to:

  • Competently assess terrain of consequence.

  • Understand risks, hazards, exposure and vulnerability in the backcountry.

  • Confidently facilitate in-field communications and decision-making.

  • Refine micro and macro route finding and terrain management strategies.

  • Recognize and address uncertainty with self and others.

  • Analyze the snowpack and anticipate avalanche problems, sans the avalanche bulletin.

  • Lead tour planning and the development of time control plans.

  • Efficiently solicit observations and options from your teammates.

  • Be proactive in planning for rescue and emergency situations.

Jonathan Cooper

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jonathan grew up admiring the glaciated peaks and volcanoes near his hometown. These mountains quickly became a playground where he has had some of his most fond experiences and challenges with friends and guests alike.

His original passion is moving through the mountains in the winter and being rewarded with gravity fed descents on (hopefully) soft snow filled with the sounds of pure joy. Winter backcountry travel comes with the added challenge of managing avalanche hazard, and the San Juan Mountains are a prime example of this.

In addition to traveling through the mountains, he’s an avid educator and values contributing his knowledge to the greater backcountry community through avalanche education and ski guiding. Jonathan has a AAA Pro II Avalanche Certification, is a W-EMT, Rec Avalanche Course Leader and Pro Avalanche Instructor, and is a firm believer that having a deeper understanding of the environment we travel in contributes to a more holistic experience in the mountains.

Here’s to learning, riding, and making connections!

Chris Dickson

Chris has always had an infatuation with snow: how it forms, how it falls, and how best to maximize the enjoyment of sliding down it. Growing up in Massachusetts, he got his start in the backcountry at the age of 13 years old in Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, and has been hooked ever since. In search of bigger mountains and softer snow, he moved out west to study (and play) at Colorado College. There, he led his peers on backcountry hut trips and trained future ski leaders. After graduation, he migrated southwest to Telluride, CO, where the mountains captured his imagination and heart.

Since moving to Telluride in 2015, he’s been keenly studying the snow of the San Juan Mountains and logging hundreds of days on their lofty ramparts. As an environmental science major, he tries to approach the snowpack with curiosity and scientific rigor, spending lots of time digging into the snow and tracking what’s going on under his skis.

Chris possess a Pro Level 2 Avalanche Certification, is an Apprentice Ski Guide with the AMGA, and hosts a podcast on the tricky weather and snowpack of the San Juans called “The San Juan Snowcast.” In general, he’s super stoked on most things, but is especially psyched to guide and instruct with Mountain Trip during winter in the amazing mountain playground of the San Juans. Think snow!

Inclusions and Exclusions for Level 2 Avalanche Course

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Guidance of our highly experienced Mountain Trip guides.

• All necessary protective equipment where it is required.

• Assistance arranging post-trip activities in the area.


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Travel to and from southwest Colorado.

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list. (Please, just ask us if you need anything!)

• Accommodations in Colorado.

• Travel and/or rescue insurance. (The CORSAR card is an inexpensive way to reimburse local rescue groups for costs incurred during a rescue in Colorado.)

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the area due to illness or other problems.

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip.

• Costs as a result of force majeure.

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for guests who must cancel trips. Guests must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning trips and contracting guides for specific dates, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in organizing our excursions. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all guests.

We require 100% payment at the time of booking and at least 72 hours’ notice for cancellations and rescheduling of activities. If you would like to purchase travel insurance to protect a trip in case of last-minute cancellations, you can do so via Travel Guard HERE.

We are happy to work with you to reschedule to a new date, or if you need to cancel entirely, we will provide a full refund with a minimum of 72 hours’ notice. If you cancel inside of 72 hours ahead of a trip departure, or do not show up, you will not be refunded and will have to reschedule by paying full price.

Avalanche Courses (Rescue, Level 1 and Level 2) cannot be cancelled or rescheduled once the pre-course online materials have been received by the student 10 days prior to the in-person field session. (Concerning the Level 2 Avalanche Course at OPUS Hut on Jan. 2-5, 2023, we are required to adhere to the OPUS Hut cancellation policy, therefore any cancellations made prior to receiving the pre-course materials will receive a refund less $288, the cost of room and board for the course at OPUS Hut.) Please see the OPUS Hut Cancellation Policy below:

OPUS Hut Cancellation Policy:

  • We do not issue refunds for cancellations, only credits.
  • Any changes in reservation or cancellations must be made more than 30 days in advance to arrival date for an 80% credit toward a future hut stay.
  • Groups deciding not to come when avalanche danger rating is High or Extreme as forecast by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on the day of arrival will be given full credit to be used within one calendar year.
  • All credits are valid for one calendar year.

All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office. No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last three days prior to the scheduled date of a trip.

Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel a trip prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from trip participants shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.

Weather Cancellations

We, Mountain Trip and our guides, reserve the right to make all weather-related decisions in regards to the cancellation of trips.

The following is a list of guide-recommended gear for Avalanche Courses with Mountain Trip. In general, you’ll want a selection of warm layers that work together. We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you. Whatever gear you choose, please make sure it fits well so you fully enjoy your experience in the mountains.

In addition to what we provide and have available to rent, there is also a good selection of gear available in Telluride. If you have any specific questions about what you might need, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Mountain Trip office.

Skis, boots, skins and poles are rented for $200/course, and airbag packs for $30/day.

Print Equipment

Footwear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Ski SocksYou will want ski socks that fit your foot well and are warm. For multi-day trips or ski expeditions, we recommend multiple pairs of socks so you can dry a pair overnight.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers. Long sleeve or short sleeve base layers work well.
Light Fleece HoodyLight/mid weight fleece (or wool) top with a hood. You will wear this over your light weight base layer.
Soft Shell Wind JacketMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. We are huge fans of very lightweight softshell wind jackets for high, dry, cold peaks. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. This layer is used in addition to your more waterproof hard shell jacket.
Ski ShellWe recommend a gore-tex ski shell that is water resistant but light weight at the same time.
Puffy Jacket SkiingA warm puffy jacket to throw on at the top of the skin track, during breaks, in the early am or on cold days.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Bottoms(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers.
Ski PantA goretex or softshell ski pant with ventilation is recommended.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Heavyweight GlovesWarm, insulated gloves are the day-to-day workhorses on cold peaks or for cold days of ice climbing. We prefer gloves with removable liners for ease of drying.
Medium Weight GlovesA Mid-weight glove will generally be a softshell type glove with some light synthetic insulation.
Light Weight GlovesWhen the sun comes out on a glacier, the temperature can soar. Light weight, soft shell gloves are great for keeping the sun off your hands, while still giving you a bit of protection from the wind and cold.
Buff Neck GaiterBuff is a brand of light weight neck gaiters that have grown to become a staple of every guide's kit. These are amazingly versatile, and can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter or pulled over your face for protection from the wind or sun. They come in many thicknesses nowadays, but we prefer the original weight for its versatility.
Sun HatBaseball type or wide brimmed sun hats are required for protection against the intense sunshine found on many peaks. You can combine a baseball hat with a BUFF for good sun protection or go for a wide brimmed version to protect your face, ears and neck.
Hand WarmersBring 4 -6+ sets of these disposable insurance policies, depending on where you are climbing. Make certain that your hand warmers are relatively new, as they do go bad over time.
Ski GogglesThese are necessary for use while traveling during storms or during really cold and windy weather. These must have double lenses and provide full UV protection. Fogging is a real challenge, so goggles that actively vent are worth the investment. Julbo's Aerospace or Airflux have a slick venting system or Smith makes battery-powered "Turbo Fan" models. Select a general purpose lens that will provide some protection in bright light, but not be so dark as to make them useless on a cloudy or flat-light day.
SunglassesSunglasses are essential in the mountains. Choose a pair that are comfortable and provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.

Ski Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Backcountry Ski PolesAdjustable ski poles are fantastic as they allow you to change length for skinning vs. skiing. Any poles with powder baskets will work.
Touring BootsIf you have your own boots some helpful features include; walk mode and pin binding compatibility. Whatever boot you decide to use, make sure it is compatible with your touring bindings. Mountain Trip has a fleet of La Sportiva touring boots if you need to rent.
Climbing SkinsClimbing skins pre-cut for your touring skis. We include skins for our rental skis.
Backcountry SkisA lightweight ski setup with touring specific bindings is a great way to maximize the fun in the backcountry. Mountain Trip has a fleet of Black Diamond touring skis with pin bindings for you to rent for Colorado backcountry ski trips.
Ski HelmetWe recommend skiing with a ski helmet. Any downhill ski helmet will work.

Avalanche Safety Equipment

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Avalanche Transceiver/BeaconWhen traveling in avalanche terrain, whether it is backcountry skiing in the Alaska Range, or Colorado, we will wear avalanche transceivers (beacons). We will have an opportunity to practice at the start of the trip. Beacons are included for Colorado backcountry ski trips and available for rent on other climbs and expeditions.
Avalanche ProbeAn avalanche probe specifically for backcountry skiing.
Avalanche ShovelYou want a shovel that has a removable handle so that you can stow it in your backpack while touring. Metal bladed shovels only.
Backcountry Ski BackpackA backpack specific for backcountry skiing is recommended, these packs will have a separate pocket specifically for avalanche rescue gear. We also recommend skiing with an avalanche airbag, Mountain Trip has a fleet of Black Diamond airbag backpacks for rent on Colorado backcountry ski trips.

Other

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
SunscreenThe sun can be intense in Colorado, so please apply high SPF sunscreen prior to your trip and bring a small tube along to reapply during the day.
Snacks and Lunch FoodPack enough food for snacking while on the skin track, in-between rock pitches or on the trail in the summer. We recommend a combination of energy bars, dried fruit and nuts and/or a sandwich. Bring something that you like to eat!
Pee FunnelThis is a women's specific tool for expeditions and winter trips that gives women the ability to pee standing up like men. This also creates a little more privacy and protection from the elements when on a rope team. We prefer this hard-sided version.
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