Avalanche Awareness

February 18, 2011

One of the greatest aspects of going to a school like CMC is location location location. The last time I checked, no other college in the United States is nestled as close nature as CMC. When it comes down to it, CMC offers a great education in a beautiful setting. The fact that we are burrowed so close to the outdoors offers us students an incredible opportunity to take classes that venture us away from the classroom and into an educational experience far from the typical. With that being said, I explored outside my normal realm of typical college studies this semester and I dived into a class that has interested me for quite some time. Avalanche Awareness was the name and after taking it, I highly recommend it to any person interested in back country recreation.

beacon training

Before taking my backcountry snowboarding seriously, I signed up for this Avalanche Awareness class to get my feet wet and have a solid place to start. With dozens of Avalanche deaths per year in Colorado, I figured this class is a must take course for anyone considering recreating in the back country safely. I spent this past weekend out on Rabbit Ears pass learning everything about the crazy world of Avalanches and this is my story.

pit digging

My class only spent two sessions in the actual classroom.  We learned all about the basics of avalanches and how to stay away from them. We briefly covered snowpack, weather, burial statistics and proper equipment. Our instructors Pete Huber and Cody Perry did an excellent job showing us the ropes into this field but the real learning would occur once we got out in back country ourselves. That following Friday we as a class were up on Rabbit Ears pass doing exactly that.

snow layer analysis

Only a 15 minute drive from campus took us right into the heart of the avalanche country in the Steamboat area. Armed with beacons, probes and shovels, we as a group hiked into the wilderness to begin our first lesson: Pit Digging. In order to assess a slope to make sure it is safe to descend down, a pit must be dug to learn more about the stability of the snowpack. Digging a pit exposes snow that had fallen in the past and this allowed us look at over a month’s worth of snow. Every layer from different snowfalls were extremely prominent. It was quite easy to distinguish when, where and how the snow had fallen with the help of our instructors Cody and Pete. By assessing the snowpack, we as a group were getting the hands on training we needed to learn how to stay away from danger.

snow crystal analysis

The bulk of the training was how to stay out of an avalanche. However we also learned about what to do if we or a friend ever got caught in one. According to Pete and Cody, the most important devices a back country enthusiast must have on them at all times are a beacon, probe and shovel. We spent extensive time learning about the purpose and function of these tools. If used properly, these pieces of equipment will save a life in the time of need. For those of you that aren’t familiar, a beacon is a device that transmits a signal to other beacons. Anyone wearing a beacon when someone gets buried in an avalanche has the capability to find the buried body and extract it. Once the body is located, the probe is used to poke into the snow and find exactly where the person is located. Once that is done, the shovel digs the buried one out. It’s a lot easier said than done. Believe me when I say that.

the snow was our chalkboard

After spending an entire weekend out on the field learning, it was time to put our skills to work. We hiked around the Rabbit Ears until we found a slope we all wanted to descend down. We hiked to the top, dug a pit, assessed the snow and deemed it moderately safe to ski. One by one we carefully shredded the slope with utmost finesse and I must say, hiking for your turns is quite the feeling. To put it in a nutshell, this class taught me everything I needed to know about how to learn about avalanches. The class opened the book for me and I as a student of avalanche safety will now begin the process of taking it all in. For those of you CMC students interested in recreating in the back country, remember that it’s a very dangerous place out there. Get the education you need right here at CMC. Remember this: It’s a whole lot of fun to peacefully shred the mountain in safety, rather than getting shredded to pieces in an avalanche.
Here is a video of me riding down the awesome slope we chose to descend down!

Cupcake Decorating Contest

February 9, 2011

Last Sunday, I was getting back from the library when I walked into the residence halls to catch up on some much needed sleep. As I walked past the MPR, I noticed an abnormally large group of people clustered around the tables. They all seemed very preoccupied with something and I was eager to find out what was going on. As I opened the door and stepped into the MPR, I was greeted with the comforting smell of warm cake batter and sugary frosting. Everyone was decorating cupcakes!

This cupcake decorating extravaganza was put on by RHA (The Residence Halls Association). I was super stoked to get in on the action simply because I love cupcakes. They had every kind of sprinkle and every kind of frosting color for the extravaganza. People were going crazy with it coming up with some awesome cupcake designs. There were ladybug cupcakes, Grateful Dead cupcakes, superhero cupcakes, all kinds of cupcakes. There was a great deal of awesome designs however I wasn’t so worried about the prize. Instead, I was more excited to eat my actual cupcake itself. Right after I made mine, I took a picture of it, and devoured it. After eating one cupcake,  it quickly led to two. Two led to three and three led to four. Before I knew it my stomach was loaded on cake and frosting.

After rounding off my 4th cupcake, I realized that my need for sleep was quickly overpowered by the sugar high. How counter intuitive… Anyway, I took the extra burst of energy from all the sugar and photographed all the cupcakes in the contest just for you guys. Winners were chosen and prizes were given out at the end of the night.

A Big Thanks goes to RHA  for buying the tons of cupcakes!

Here is the gallery below

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Three days ago, I heard rumor on the street that an Arctic cold front will be sweeping through Steamboat over the next few days. At the time, I really didn’t think it was a big deal. “Oh another cold front,” I thought to myself, “I will just have to bundle up.” Little did I know that this cold front was going to be the COLDEST weather will ever experience. Throughout my 20 years of being a Colorado resident, I have never been subjected to such bone chilling, frost biting, face shattering cold in my entire life.

Yesterday wasn’t such a big deal. I mean we topped out at -17 degrees and I was like “dang, pretty cold.” After one day of negative teen temperatures, I was only slightly irritated at the cold. This morning however was nothing compared to the cold of yesterday. This morning when I woke up, the look of my window didn’t look so good. It was completely covered in ice. I knew something wasn’t right. As soon as I stepped outside, my face immediately began to blister. I noticed that all the fog in Steamboat had sank down to the lowest point of the valley which was on the river. An inversion is what everyone calls it. Apparently when it gets cold enough, all the cold air sinks to the lowest points. Anyone living by the river knows what I am talking about. It was unbelievably cold and I knew it was far colder than -17 degrees.

frozen window

After putting forth a huge effort in moving to Bristol Hall, I decided to check what the temperature actually was. According to http://www.steamboatweather.com, the current temperature was -54 degrees with wind chill. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe it. After realizing how cold it was, it only made it colder. All day in class, the negative fifties was the talk of the day. Nobody could keep their focus because literally it felt like Antarctica out there.The only silver lining of this story is that maybe the pine beetle infestation will die. We can only pray.

To all of you out there in not Colorado land please note that this is NOT NORMAL. Colorado rarely gets into double digit negative temperatures. Our winters are pretty tolerable. Take this into consideration because -54 is just insane. Just insane. So all my Steamboat folk, please sit close to the fire, drink 34534 cups of hot tea and DO NOT go outside. 😀