Thursday, 22 February 2018

Avalanche Awareness Training

I have been getting a lot of folk asking for training. My apologies folks. I think I did my bit for the moment but might well re visit it if it becomes practically viable another season. But not this one. Here's a bit of history and all in I think its done its job. A special thanks to Keith and Christine of Glencoe Ski Patrol for helping out over the years and as said in my previous post on an avalanche, go speak to the ski patrol for advice. Not getting in an avalanche is the goal.

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Hamish MacInnes opened the training park

Legends Phillip Rankin, Dr Ian MacLaren, Peter Weir and SAIS Paul Moores at the opening of the glencoe mountain transceiver park
Ten years ago I saw an increase in folk going off piste and touring and many near misses locally. Folk have explored off piste in Scotland since way back before I was around. Many of the classic local tours and off the back of the Glencoe mountain descents were done by ski patrol or regular Coe skiers. Same at Nevis Range "over the back" and "off the side" were done by early ski school instructors and local legends many of whom are still about.  A lot of these folks had a mountaineering back ground or were local mountain rescue, or were just "Chancers" if you don't mind the pun (it's an in joke).

The new explorers were, and often still are boarders or freeride tourers or hike and drop skiers many whom didn't have a broad range of mountain skills and were not avalanche aware. I thought maybe I could do something to help. Anatom and BCA gave me a rudimentary wired transceiver training system which we had put in next to the lower T bar Glencoe and also we had some money donated for signs and banners. Anatom were an early sponsor and Gordon and the guys superb support with BCA kit for students to borrow

The early wired system waiting to be laid out
A few signs to help 
All of the above worked well increasing folks ability to test transceiver search skills. This was only possible because Andy Meldrum, Staff and Glencoe Ski patrol all bought into the concept and set aside some land and caretaked the park. It also allowed me to run each year for five years up to ten basic level 1 avalanche awareness courses or transceiver and search and recovery workshops. During this time the Mill Cottage Trust also donated money and bought a portable Ortovox STS system which can be used when snow levels are low but its not possible to get up a mountain. This system is available to any instructor or guide working locally providing an avalanche education course, on loan. Despite offering it out so far no one else other than myself has used it. Please borrow it if you need it!

For three years Clachaig hotel gathered some money from mountain safety lectures which I took part in giving talks on Avalanche Awareness. This raised over £2,500 for the replacement of the old system with a new top of the range wireless training system and some more upgrade to the Glencoe training park. This season there are 3 of the possible 8 remote beacons out.

Last year was a poor snow year and there was no demand for training. The previous season every weekend course I had booked had to be cancelled due to wind/weather (I prefer to get folk up the hill on ski's and make it real rather than at the base). That and lack of place to do the introductory lecture made it problematic. I don't see many folk in the transceiver park these days. Maybe the transceiver parks have had their day and its job done. 
Ski Patrol and Course Students learning that survival depends on shovel skills
Students taking a break during a level 1 course

SAIS snowsports Scotland avalanche course instructor George Reid in the park

Scottish Freeride organisers and legends getting in some practice at the park

Boot Hill

Killin MRT getting some transceiver work done at the park
Unlike ten years ago when no one else was providing off piste safety and avalanche awareness training, now Glenmore Lodge, Avy Geeks. Off Piste Performance and many others are providing quality training. That's great for mountain safety. I would recommend these providers to you, or a local IFGM guide.

If you buy avalanche safety equipment from me I am more than happy to give some free tuition up at the ski areas that doesn't take up too much of your ticket ski time, but I will not be doing anymore of the courses as in the past at Glencoe. I ski a bit more at Nevis Range these days as its where a lot of local freeride skiers seem to go, and where many of my customers are as "over the back" skiers, so often up there as well as Glencoe. Grab me any time if you want advice on equipment or a quick run through on your transceiver. But not on a powder day as I might be another of the Chancers.

If you need any kit then this is the stuff you want


Davy Gunn

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