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Rahana participated in our Chill Snow Safety Course in the Craigieburn Range this past weekend. In this feature she gives insight on what to expect, who the course is suitable for and also hears what the rest of the group has to say about this experience.

Rahana Jarvis 2nd of August 2017

With a few good storms under our belts it has been great to see the winter kick off in the Craigieburns.

As you have likely heard there is a weak layer in the snow pack which means skiing is mostly limited to within ski area boundaries where avalanche mitigation takes place.

While conditions are considerably dangerous for a lot of the backcountry terrain they provide a good season for learning. If you’re keen to learn more about what causes avalanches and how they can be avoided, this is a great time to do it.

Typically there are three of the two day Chill courses each season, run in association with Anna Keeling Guiding. The first course for 2017 took place last weekend, here’s what one of the participants, Marcus Longman, had to say about the course:

"What an epic weekend! 
John was a fantastic guide and tutor, he gave us heaps of opportunity to ask questions, he was really knowledgeable and friendly and patient.  He taught us some great techniques and was full of enthusiasm.  We found the course material to be really helpful - and will get a copy of the snow sense book just to keep refreshing.  There was a good balance of digging, class material and riding, so we were super stoked!
Tim, Lucy and I were really appreciated the effort you guys went to getting the snow shoes.  They were perfect and even though I personally hadn’t used snow shoes before, both Lucy and Tim thought they were good, we could all see how necessary it is to get the right snow shoe equipment so thanks heaps for that.  I think we should be able to get a wee crew together out of the team too - nice to all be at the same level doing it.
I’ll definitely be recommending the course to friends - it’s good value for money and well run."

What can you expect from the Chill Snow Safety Course?
Expect instruction from an experienced guide.  There are six participants on each course and plenty of opportunities to ask questions. You’ll find the group are like-minded people wanting to get out and explore the backcountry safely.  
The course content delivers a mix of theory and hands-on learning. There is a visual presentation to kick the course off, with videos. The hands-on learning takes place on the snow, learning how to use rescue equipment and make decisions to travel safely in the backcountry. Specific characteristics of the Craigieburn Range terrain are covered and while the course is aimed at people learning avalanche awareness, it’s a great way to refresh knowledge for those who have done a course ‘a while back’ or overseas.
Expect to go to bed early on Saturday night – you’ll be tired after all the learning on the first day and keen to get a good night’s rest before heading out in to it on the second.

What exactly can you expect to learn on the course?
Stating the obvious here, you will learn all about avalanches – the different types and what causes them. You’ll learn how to understand and apply the advisory and forecasting and what to identify to make a call on risk aversion.
Learning is done both off and on the mountain, so you get a chance to apply knowledge in the field (so to speak, if conditions allow you’ll be travelling beyond the ski field boundary).
You will learn about rescue methods and how to use backcountry gear effectively and efficiently. If you haven’t yet used your gear this is a great opportunity to get familiar with it – not just your transceiver, shovel and probe but ski touring gear too. The practical learning such as what goes where in your pack or even just what is feels like to ski with all your gear on your back is invaluable experience.

I don’t know anything about backcountry skiing, can I still do the course? Is there anything I can do to prepare?
Yes you can still participate if you have not yet done any backcountry skiing or snowboarding although you will want to have spent at least a little time off the groomed stuff and be comfortable skiing or riding a ridge line and in (possibly) variable conditions. You can prepare by familiarizing yourself with the gear required for backcountry travel and watching this video series.

Do I need to own all the gear on the list?
No, you can borrow or hire if you do not have all the gear required. The other participants will likely have different kinds of gear so you can compare before committing to purchasing. Having said that, the course is a great way to familiarize yourself with new equipment. If you’re not sure what to get in general, get in touch with us at Chill – we’re happy to point you in the right direction.