January 11, 2010

Back to School

This coming weekend I'll be up north taking my first-ever avalanche course, an AIARE Level I offered by Sierra Mountain Guides. While I've probably picked up a good deal level I and higher info over the years, there are a lot of holes in my knowledge. I also thought it would be valuable to write about the experience of taking the course, which might inspire others to improve their own avalanche education. I must admit I've had a lot of reluctance to do this—more on that later. For now, I'll say that many of you probably have exactly the same concerns about taking an avy course as I do.

Locally, I skied inbounds again this past weekend to continue my never-ending boot tests. I should have reviews up for the Radium and Helium soon. The Spirit 4 Review is here. Conditions in the backcountry look depressingly similar to par for the past few years. You'll need a little creativity and a lot of effort to find snow in the San Gabriels. Baldy Bowl looked pretty burnt. The north face has good coverage, though I assume most of it is ice (which may be true of other aspects as well. That's it for now.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

  1. Scott says:

    Must just be the way I ski, but I really liked the soft flex in the forward lean lock position on the Spirit 3. I’m still loving my Spirit 3s on both up and down and hope they last a long time, because I don’t want to give them up for something heavier. The ability to service all of the parts on the Spirit 4s with hand tools is really, really cool, though. Screws are nearly always better than rivets.

  2. Andy says:

    Scott, I wonder if the Spirit 3 has changed since I skied it (about 2-3 yrs ago). I’m pretty tolerant of a wide range of stiffnesses for boots, but I just couldn’t abide the Spirit 3 in the forward lock. It was so mushy I constantly noticed it. On the other hand, I thought the Spirit 3 was fine in the upright lock position. Maybe the shells have stiffened a little since those early models?

  3. Scott says:

    One man’s mushy may be another man’s preferred flex, I suppose. I agree the forward lock setting is softer than the upright lock. I prefer this dichotomy. When I’m down and forward I like the extra flex as I’m usually with a light pack on skiing something steep. When I do that I’m shoving my shins into the tongue hard enough that I like it a little soft. I use the upright when I’m either cruising shallow angle at speed or have an overnight pack on, both times when I want the boot to do the work for me. I still don’t think the forward is “mushy”, though, it’s just not rock-solid like the upright position. Granted, I’m 150lbs, so maybe a bigger fella would feel unsupported.

  4. Chad says:

    Just found your site. I’m a SCAL resident new to randonee and was considering taking the same course this past weekend from SMC. Looks like there’s another in February, and two more scheduled in March so more opportunites abound and forthcoming. Interested in your thoughts about the course. Even more so, wondering what sort of reservations you’ve had about taking the course in the first place. The practical lab experience seems likely to be worth the price of admission.

    Just bought a pair of Axon’s. Curious what you think about the Radiums. It’ll be dumping all week. Time to get out there and test this new gear.

  5. Andy says:

    Chad, I’ll be writing a lot about the experience of taking the class over the coming weeks. Very short version is I’m very glad I did it. Stay tuned.

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