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Colorado encourages backcountry safety with awareness week, pledge, educational offerings

December 8, 2020, 10:51 am

The Colorado Tourism Office on Monday put out the following press release on backcountry safety during a surge in interest related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

DENVER – Dec. 7, 2020 – Colorado is currently expecting a surge in both motorized and non-motorized backcountry recreation, and the state is helping raise awareness of backcountry risks and the importance of backcountry education in helping Coloradans and visitors stay safe while having fun in the outdoors this winter. Today, Colorado launches a Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 7-13, 2020, and encourages recreationists to take its new Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge and acquire the tools and knowledge needed to recreate as safely and responsibly as possible by visiting COLORADO.com/WinterBackcountrySafety.

If heading into the backcountry this winter, do so with safety in mind by seeking education and training, and utilizing a professional guide or seeking out a seasoned mentor. Backcountry safety education is the first pillar of the Colorado Tourism Office’s 2020/2021 winter marketing campaign.

Take Part in Colorado’s Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week – December 7-13, 2020: Colorado Governor Jared Polis has proclaimed Dec. 7-13, 2020, as Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week. Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week is designed to encourage outdoor enthusiasts, particularly those new to the winter backcountry, to take safety classes, equip themselves properly, donate to Colorado Search and Rescue, and seek guidance from experienced friends, mentors or guides to reduce their exposure to risk when exploring Colorado’s backcountry lands.

Colorado’s natural spaces saw a significant increase in visitation and use in 2020, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased interest in visitation and discovery of the state’s public land provides an opportunity to educate all Coloradans and visitors about backcountry safety and the State’s strong outdoor ethos, which must be respected to conserve natural lands and maintain healthy wildlife populations, enjoyable outdoor recreation opportunities and economy.

Visit Colorado.com/WinterBackcountrySafety to learn more about Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week.

Take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge: The Colorado Tourism Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a broad-based coalition of state agencies, public land managers, search and rescue volunteers and outdoor outfitters are united in encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to take a new Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge, committing themselves to three principles: Know Before You Go, Recreate Responsibly and Care for Colorado.

Visit Colorado.com/BackcountryPledge to take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge.

Get Educated With Backcountry Safety Courses: Be confident in your ability to use your equipment safely and competently by seeking education and training. Visit Colorado.com/WinterBackcountrySafety to explore backcountry safety class offerings.

  • Colorado Adventure Guides (CAG) in Breckenridge offers up on-snow, full day Introduction to Backcountry Skiing workshops for those interested in getting into backcountry skiing and not sure where to start. Workshop goers will learn what gear to have and how to use it, an intro to avalanche awareness, a demonstration of beacons, shovels, and probes, and much more. Once ready, Breckernidge outfitters like CAG and Backcountry Babes take learning and exploring to the next level with beginner classes and American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) certified training offered throughout the winter.
  • The Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park offers action-packed avalanche training courses combining classroom and field instruction to provide participants with a solid introduction to avalanche awareness and travel skills. They also offer backcountry skiing and splitboarding courses. Watch their FREE avalanche awareness course online, which is a great first step in avalanche education and is a useful regular refresher course for more seasoned explorers.
  • 2021 Family Mountaineering Weekend at YMCA of the Rockies, February 12-15, 2021: Include the whole family for special sessions on winter survival and backcountry skiing, and keynote presentations by Chelsea Murphy about what it means to be a Black mother with passion for adventuring in the outdoors, and Len Necefer, a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, who will discuss the history of Indigenous peoples and their ongoing relationship with the environment.
  • Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center (RMOC) in Buena Vista is a leader in backcountry trips and instruction. This winter, travel safely in the backcountry with a ski or snowboard trip with RMOC. Courses include Intro to Backcountry, Touring in Avalanche Terrain, Intro to Ice Climbing and more.
  • Organized by Weston Backcountry, the Stay At Home Speaker Series gives outdoor recreation enthusiasts the opportunity to bone up on backcountry education from the comfort of their own home. The virtual speaker series includes a variety of topics including backcountry basics, gear recommendations, avalanche education and more.
  • Colorado Mountain Club offers an Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Snowboard course. This course is designed for those that are “new to the backcountry,” who plan to travel on all terrain skis, splitboards or telemark skis. The curriculum is designed to help those new users get into the backcountry and make decisions on their own that result in safe and enjoyable trips. Sessions begin in January 2021.
  • Buena Vista Mountain Adventures (BVMA) is a hub for outdoor education and adventure. Learn how to recreate safely in one of their AIARE courses. Hone your backcountry skills or technical abilities in a ski and ride course. If you prefer an adventure, they offer guided backcountry skiing and splitboardingsnowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. From beginner to advanced, BVMA leads tours and courses for all backcountry enthusiasts.
  • Snow Mountain Ranch, part of the YMCA of the Rockies, in Granby, will offer Intro to Backcountry Skiing courses at their Nordic Center this winter. The classes will focus on how to use modern A/T (Alpine/Touring) equipment, touch upon the basic principles of avalanche safety, terrain management, backcountry travel and preparation.This program is perfect for those who have always wanted to see what it’s like to ski on their own outside of the resort. In addition, Snow Mountain Ranch’s Nordic Center has more than 120 kilometers of world-class terrain for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking.
  • Join Cripple Creek Backcountry at their Aspen Highlands location for a monthly backcountry skill-building session. This guided half-day experience is to bridge the gap from resort skiing to safe and fun backcountry travel. This is a great chance for skiers of all levels to develop their skills such as setting the perfect skin track, kick turning efficiently, practicing safe terrain selection and route-finding while simultaneously learning proper use of ski touring equipment and tricks to have an enjoyable day in the backcountry.

Safely Explore Colorado’s Backcountry With a Local Guiding Service: The Winter Outdoor Recreation Directory is a central clearing-house of resources available in Colorado to help locals and visitors safely get outdoors in the winter. Hosted by the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, the directory makes it easy for experienced and novice recreationists to find avalanche safety information, winter guide and outfitter services and educational material. Visit choosecolorado.com/programs-initiatives/winter-outdoor-recreation-resource-directory for more.

  • Imagine powder-filled skiing with no crowds or lift lines. Opening for their first full season in 2020, Bluebird Backcountry is a new kind of human-powered ski area with no chair lifts designed for learning and adventure. They have combined the best elements of the true backcountry with the basic comforts and amenities of traditional ski areas: great terrain, backcountry gear rentals and lessons, a lodge and warming hut, a professional ski patrol and avalanche education and instruction.
  • New this winter, join Colorado Adventure Guides for a unique backcountry experience at an abandoned ski area. Duck Lake is located on Guanella Pass at 11,000 feet. The original lodge and cabins, known as “Alpendorf on the Lake” served as the family getaway for the Coors family. From 1955 until 1957, when the lodge burned down, Duck Lake operated as Geneva Basin Ski Area. While the lift has stopped, the turns have not, and Colorado Adventure Guides is now operating two rustic cabins that host a variety of backcountry adventures.
  • Winter at Eleven Experience’s exclusive Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte offers generous amenities, like an indoor saltwater pool and oxygen-enriched air system. Each morning a custom-designed snowcat will be waiting at the front door to take guests to 1,000+ acres of exclusive ski terrain in nearby Irwin. The guides know where to find the deepest powder runs and wide open alpine bowls. Two on-mountain cabins, outfitted with fireplaces, dining areas and seating spaces provide guests with a comfy place to warm up, recharge and kick off après.
  • Ride the Continental Divide on Colorado snowmobiling trails as you never have before. Grand Adventures offers snowmobiling tours and rentals with treks that top out at nearly 12,000 feet with views of the entire Winter Park Ski area and the Fraser Valley. Tour options are available for all abilities from beginner to advanced and visitors can choose from multiple riding locations in Grand County.
  • Nova Guides offers half-day and full day snowmobile guiding service excursions at their primary Camp Hale location near Vail. Operating tours in the White River National Forest at Historic Camp Hale, Nova Guides reaches elevations of 12,500 feet on the largest commercial snowmobile trail system in the Vail and Beaver Creek area.
  • Colorado offers world-renowned ice climbing in multiple destinations. Adventurers can join the Colorado Climbing Company on simple guided climbs to multi-day excursions in the San Juan Mountains. Paradox Sports offers guided, adaptive ice climbing for individuals with physical disabilities. Or, hire a private ice instructor with American Mountain Guides Association and set yourself up for safety and success.
  • Red Mountain Alpine Lodge serves as the ultimate year-round backcountry accommodation for discerning clientele who seek to be on the doorstep of Colorado’s ultimate outdoor playground without sacrificing a single amenity including gourmet eats, a bar/tavern, wood-burning sauna, access to guides through San Juan Mountain Guides and more.
  • Boulder-based Timberline Adventures has expanded its winter offerings to include guided snowshoe trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. Try something new on this 3-day/2-night snowshoe tour through some of Colorado’s most scenic backcountry. Timberline Adventures can also put together a customized Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoe trip for groups of at least four people.
  • Vail Nordic School offers backcountry snowshoe and cross-country tours, as well as skin tours, in the White River National Forest wilderness. Private reservations for this service are required to ensure social distancing. Tours are available and equipment is provided for cross-country and snowshoe tours. Lessons are provided in a safe and fun environment for all levels and telemark is also offered on Vail Mountain.
  • Colorado is home to one of the most extensive backcountry hut systems in North America, with more than 30 huts across 350 miles of U.S. Forest Service trails called the 10th Mountain Division Huts accessible via skis or snowshoes in the wintertime. The 10th Mountain has made a number of changes to make the hut experience more comfortable for visitors and reduce the spread of COVID-19 including increased disinfecting, allowing only single-party groups to use the huts, reduced maximum occupancy etc.
  • Leave the Boys Behind is a female-specific guiding program started by Aspen Alpine Guides, an Aspen based professional guide Service. Leave the Boys Behind hosts backcountry adventure trips throughout the year that include skiing, snowboarding, backcountry hut trips, peak climbs, avalanche courses and more. All trips are designed by and led by women for women.
  • The Colorado Cross Country Ski Association shows visitors the best Nordic Ski Resorts, activities and events to plan a memorable Nordic ski vacation. They also offer a season punch pass for $150 that provides 18 trail passes at ten resorts and Nordic centers across Colorado.
  • Front Range Ride Guides specializes in custom tailored mountain biking and winter fat biking adventures along the Front Range and into Rocky Mountains for riders of all ages and ability levels. They pair riders with a professional, certified guide; provide the bikes, essential gear, proper education, and create an experience that perfectly fits their needs and desires. They also offer Skills Clinics and a variety of MTB/Fat Biking Classes through the winter.

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