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Avalanche Course with Mountain Madness

Coworkers Team Building in Avalanche Course!

Seems like I keep hear­ing peo­ple men­tion the word Spring” around town in Seat­tle. How­ev­er, for those who love to spend time in the moun­tains this time of year, we know that win­ter is still very much con­trol. Moun­tain Mad­ness Ski Guide and Avalanche Instruc­tor Dal­las Glass spent three days with five employ­ees from Seat­tle area based Yukon Trad­ing Com­pa­ny explor­ing snow, weath­er, and avalanche edu­ca­tion. It was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for these cowork­ers to enjoy the back­coun­try and exer­cise good team build­ing! Keep the team build­ing hap­pen­ing this sum­mer with 3 or 4‑day ascents of Mount Bak­er, Mount Shuk­san or Mount Adams!

Recov­er­ing from Strate­gic Shov­el­ing” prac­tice; Rebec­ca and Kevin
enjoy the win­ter sun­shine at Stevens Pass. Ryan Spivey photo

I just came back down from spend­ing 6 straight days ski­ing in the moun­tains around Stevens Pass. I must say as I walked to my local cof­fee shop this morn­ing to sit with a cup of cof­fee and read, I was sur­prised to see the trees leaf­ing out, the flow­ers begin­ning to bloom, and the sun warm­ing my face. There’s no doubt about it, Spring is in the air here in Seat­tle. But for folks like me and five employ­ees of Yukon Trad­ing Com­pa­ny, we know win­ter isn’t over and there is still plen­ty of snow in the moun­tains and more on the way. 

Show­ing some col­or for the cam­era, Ryan Spivey finds some soft
snow in the upper Nason Creek drainage. Dal­las Glass photo

Teach­ing AIARE Lev­el 1 avalanche cours­es for Moun­tain Mad­ness is my favorite part about the win­ter. There’s just some­thing about see­ing peo­ple get excit­ed and knowl­edge­able about enjoy­ing the moun­tains. What made my recent avalanche course even more spe­cial was it was five co-work­ers from Seat­tle area based Yukon Trad­ing Com­pa­ny. Each of them works inti­mate­ly in the out­door indus­try: rep-ing for sev­er­al large out­door gear com­pa­nies, hold­ing demo days, and mar­ket­ing the lat­est prod­ucts to us the out­door recre­ation­ist. It was great to see the sup­port of the com­pa­ny in mak­ing sure its employ­ees had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about avalanche edu­ca­tion and it func­tioned as a won­der­ful team build­ing exercise.

Trav­el­ing wise­ly in avalanche ter­rain, the group works togeth­er
to stay safe as they hike back to the sad­dle. Dal­las Glass photo

A great part about teach­ing a cus­tom Lev­el 1 course is that I get to focus on the goals and objec­tives of the group. We decid­ed that we want­ed to spend as much time learn­ing out­side as pos­si­ble. So, just a few hours into day one of our three day course we were in our skis head­ing out to Grace Lakes for a lit­tle com­pan­ion res­cue prac­tice. After some ini­tial instruc­tion and prac­tice we divid­ed into two teams for a lit­tle game I like to call Avalanche Hide and Go Seek”. Seems like as soon as we make com­pan­ion res­cue prac­tice into a game peo­ple become much more com­pet­i­tive. Add into that equa­tion that these were five co-work­ers, and…well you get the idea. Bea­cons were hid under trees, over a meter deep, and in one case turned off, all in the name of fun and learning. 

Pat set­ting his skis on edge and show­ing why 4−6” of new
snow on a rain crust can make for fun ski­ing. Dal­las Glass photo

With a sol­id foun­da­tion in com­pan­ion res­cue and a lit­tle more time inside learn­ing the nuts and bolts of avalanch­es, we ven­tured back out­side to look deep into the snow­pack. While stand­ing around in a snow­pit for a few hours is rarely my idea of a good time; it’s a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to watch as folks apply their new knowl­edge about lay­ers in the snow and how to assess avalanche hazard. 

Pick­ing up some back­coun­try board­ing skills, Leah is ready to make some
turns on the way back to the car. Dal­las Glass photo

For those who have been read­ing my avalanche course blogs this win­ter, you know what’s next…we went ski­ing. Day three of the course began with a tour plan as every­one decid­ed what ter­rain was safe, where we would avoid, and where the best snow would be. As we hiked we made more and more obser­va­tions con­firm­ing what we expect­ed con­cern­ing avalanche haz­ard. By the time we reached the sad­dle in the ridge we were con­fi­dent that the north fac­ing slopes below us would not only be safe but fun ski­ing. Some laughs and cheers erupt­ed from the group as their friend­s/­co-work­ers arced turns through the soft­er north-fac­ing snow. Now, it was time to head back to the cars. Work­ing as a team the group nav­i­gat­ed com­plex avalanche ter­rain. What bet­ter way to build team­work amongst co-work­ers than to go back­coun­try skiing!

Yep, it may be sun­ny here in Seat­tle and the trees may be turn­ing green, but for me and my new friends at the Yukon Trad­ing Com­pa­ny win­ter isn’t over. Our time play­ing in the moun­tains has just tak­en a great leap forward.”

~ MM Guide Dal­las Glass