ABOUT SILVERTON AVALANCHE SCHOOL
The Silverton Avalanche School is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on how to play safe in avalanche terrain. All proceeds benefit San Juan County Search & Rescue.
Since 1962 the Silverton Avalanche School has educated skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, ski patrollers, search and rescue personnel, and public safety personnel about the hazards of avalanches. Over 4,000 students have learned how to recognize avalanche hazards, determine snow stability, organize and carry out rescue operations and handle avalanche emergencies.
Silverton is the place to learn about avalanches and how to avoid them. At 9,318 feet, the town located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, 50 miles north of Durango, Colorado. Silverton is surrounded by the best backcountry terrain in Colorado and numerous avalanche paths — a natural avalanche laboratory — providing students with an active and accessible classroom.
Our courses are taught by nationally recognized members of the American Avalanche Association (A3), AIARE, and the Canadian Avalanche Association. Our instructors include CAIC staff, snow scientists, and a host of mountain rescue specialists. We adhere to the AAA’s Guidelines for Avalanche Course Curriculum. Many of our instructors present new methods at the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) and are active in researching the fundamentals of avalanche processes. Here are descriptions of each of our instructors in alphabetical order:
Board of Directors for the Silverton Avalanche School
Mike has lived in Silverton for ten years and has worked as a ski guide in Colorado and Alaska for the last 8 seasons. As an avid backcountry skier, he has established many first descents in the San Juans. Mike Barney has received Level 1 AIARE avalanche instructor training and is a Wilderness First Responder. He has a wealth of experience in different snow climates and has been in the gauntlet of tough decision making. Every spring Mike migrates to Alaska to hit the big lines and guides for Valdez Heli Camps where he is the Snow Safety Director. Mike is a team member of the San Juan Search and Rescue Team and serves on the Board of Directors for the Silverton Avalanche School. Mike is also a coach for the Silverton Ski Racing Team. Mike says “As a skier living in the San Juan Mountains you have the perfect classroom to learn how avalanches work.” Through this he said “I hope to help others safely ski, snowboard, and snowmachine in these mountains.” He is also a sponsored rider for Trew Gear. In the Summer he can be found milling wood at his business, Silverton Lumber.
Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center
Jeff is a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and with Western Water Assessment, CIRES institutes at the University of Colorado. Jeff sits on the Board of Directors for the Center For Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton. He has worked with CSAS Director Chris Landry during their MSc efforts at the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where Jeff studied the spatial variation of snowpack temperatures in the Bridger Range. From there, Jeff went on to Colorado State University where his PhD dissertation examined spatial variations in snowpack distribution and properties. After a post-doctoral position at the University of Washington, where he worked on snowmelt modeling and climate change effects on Washington state water supplies.
SAS Board Member and Snowmobile Avalanche Education Pioneer
Mike is a Level I & II Avalanche instructor for Colorado Mountain College and runs his own avalanche education company called Avalanche1. Mike is a rescue/avalanche team leader/avalanche mission coordinator for the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. He has been an instructor Walter Kirch Avalanche Seminars. He has graduated of National Avalanche School, National Academy of Winter Guiding and the AVPRO course through A3. He has been a mountain snowmobiler for 20 years and has pioneered snowmobile avalanche education in Colorado. He has taught over 100 snowmobile specific avalanche courses in Colorado in the past five years. Mike also works as a technical representative for BCA for the snowmobile audience. He is a member of the American Avalanche Association. He has received training from BCA, Snowpulse, and Ortovox.
Director for the Silverton Avalanche School
2012 marks Jim’s fourth year as the Director of the Silverton Avalanche School. He is Level 3 certified by AIARE, a Level 1 and 2 course instructor, and develops custom courses. Jim is also a registered EMS trainer in Colorado and teaches wilderness emergency medical courses for Remote Medical International. In his spare time Jim volunteers as the coordinator for the San Juan County Avalanche Deployment Team with Flight For Life and is Captain of the San Juan County Search and Rescue team.
Avalanche Skills Training (AST), Search and Rescue
Ken is based on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, in Maple Ridge, certified by the Canadian Avalanche Centre as a CAA Level 1 technician and currently has been teaching Avalanche Skills Training (AST) level 1 to the general public for 4 years. He is an active volunteer member of Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue for 16+ years and is certified as a Ground Search Team Leader, Rope Rescue Team Leader, Search and Rescue Manager, and Organized Avalanche Response Team leader with Search and Rescue. He is also certified by The Justice Institute of BC and the BC Provincial Emergency Program as Rope Rescue Instructor and Ground Search and Rescue Instructor, and has assisted in instructing numerous Organized Avalanche Response courses to other Search and Rescue personnel here in BC. When he’s not teaching, mountaineering, ice-climbing, or back-country skiing, he is employed by Telus Communications as a Microwave Radio Technician (getting paid to be on mountaintops!!) and is also employed part-time by the British Columbia Ambulance Service as an IV-endorsed Primary Care Paramedic.
Senior Instructor and Curriculum Adviser for SAS
Andy is a senior instructor for the Silverton Avalanche School and serves as a curriculum adviser. Andy began his avalanche education when he triggered, and was caught in an avalanche in 1984. Since then he has learned as much as he can about snow by getting a Masters Degree at Montana State University studying how terrain parameters affect avalanche frequency and pursuing his doctorate at the University of Wyoming studying bridging in the snowpack. He worked as an avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in Silverton and Boulder, Colorado and as an avalanche forecaster at the Andina Mine in Chile. He has been a teacher for the Silverton Avalanche School since 1995. Currently he works as a researcher for the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU and as an avalanche consultant for Trautner Geotech in Durango, Colorado. He is the outgoing secretary and member of the research committee of the American Avalanche Association. When he’s not teaching, Andy likes to sled with his kids on any amount of snow.
Guide, CS Irwin and SAS
Ian is a Colorado native who has been playing in mountains all his life. After learning what true powder skiing was while captaining the University of Utah Nordic Ski Team in Salt Lake City, Ian decided to give up skiing around on groomed gerbil loops and become an avalanche professional. Ian has over 12 years backcountry experience in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah as well as guiding on Denali in Alaska for Mountain Trip International. Ian has successfully completed AIARE Level II and III courses, AMGA Ski Guides Course, WFR (Wilderness First Responder), as well as contributing material to the Avalanche Review as a professional member of the American Avalanche Association. Currently Ian works for CS Irwin in Crested Butte but maintains strong ties to the San Juan Mountains. In the summer, Ian is a fly fishing guide in Idaho tickling big trout.
Avalanche Education for Children Instructor and SAS
Krista Hildebrandt has experienced 20 years of avalanche activity, professionally and recreationally. Crested Butte has been her home for 25 years, and along with her husband and two boys, continues to enjoy her life on the slopes, in the backcountry, and aspires to grow old while skiing powder – like Dolores LaChappelle! After one of her children almost got buried in a roof avalanche, her goal of education become the most important item on her ‘avoiding avalanches’ agenda. Krista has professionally ski patrolled for Crested Butte Mountain Resort for 20 seasons, as well as guided in Colorado and briefly in Alaska. She has completed several levels of avalanche training, as well as the levels 1, 2, and 3 in the AIARE curriculum, and is a professional member of the A3. She has been teaching children of all ages for over 8 years through skier education and avalanche awareness courses in the schools, is a level I AIARE lead instructor, as well as a Silverton Avalanche School instructor. Her mantra is to enjoy every turn while making the best decisions possible, returning home safely so you can do it again tomorrow!
Wolf Creek Ski Patroller
Aleph is currently a ski patroller and avalanche educator at Wolf Creek Ski Area. She has worked as the backcountry avalanche forecaster for the Payette NF Avalanche Center in McCall Idaho. She is the former director of the Silverton Avalanche School. She has been teaching avalanche classes for ten years. Her passion for snow and avalanches began as a student at Prescott College where she took Avalanche Forecasting here in the San Juans. She has had a diverse career working as a highway forecaster, ski guiding, and ski patrolling. She has worked in many of the western states, experiencing different snow climates and spent a summer patrolling in New Zealand. This is her 9th year working for SAS. She has received instructor training through AIARE for Level 1 and II courses and is a professional member of A3 . In the non snow months Aleph instructs for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
Snow Safety Director at Silverton Mountain Ski Area
Doug Krause is a life-long backcountry skier with twelve years of professional snow safety, guiding and avalanche education experience included in 27 seasons among the Rocky Mountains, Central Andes and Alaska. That doesn’t count his first twenty winters in Vermont. He is an AAA Certified Instructor and the Snow Safety Director at Silverton Mountain Ski Area. Doug lives in Silverton, Colorado. He likes powder and scrapple and dislikes whiners and paying to ski.
Leo has taught for SAS for several years. Leo is an EMS Captain / Firefighter with Durango Fire & Rescue in Durango, Colorado. Much of Leo’s pre-hospital medical experience (over 26 years) has involved both ground ambulance paramedic responsibilities in the Durango area and 9 years as a critical care flight nurse / paramedic with the Air Care Medical Flight Program based in Farmington, New Mexico. He has extensive wilderness and backcountry medical experience. Leo has logged more technical rescues than he can count. Leo is the technical rescue advisor for the San Juan County Search and Rescue Team. He has been on some of the most dramatic rescue missions in the San Juans. Leo has been an active member of the La Plata County Search and Rescue in Durango since 1985. He is also an instructor with Rigging for Rescue based in Ouray, Colorado. He has conducted numerous mountaineering trips in the around the US including Alaska and Canada. In addition to being an active climber (rock and ice), ultra runner, and backcountry skier, Leo is also a husband (wife Susie) and father of three very active boys (Kendall, Andy and Kaden).
Snow Safety Director for CS Irwin Cat Skiing Operation
Billy has been in Crested Butte for 17 years and has been forecasting for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center for 7 years. He is currently the Snow Safety Director for CS Irwin Cat skiing Operation. He worked for 7 years with Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol and previously worked as a snowcat ski guide for Irwin Lodge. Billy has worked for Outward Bound For 15 years in Colorado, Utah, and Alaska. He is a certified level 3 avalanche practitioner, a certified AIARE avalanche instructor and teaches for the Silverton Avalanche School. Billy as well teaches wilderness medicine for WMI of Nols. When it’s not winter he can be found hiking, biking, and climbing in the Elk Mountains or rafting & kayaking in the Grand Canyon.
Canadian Avalanche Association Industry Training Program Instructor
Johann will be joining us for the 2011 season. Johann is a resident of Stewart, British Columbia, right next to Hyder, AK with Cabins in the Cassiar Mtns, and Happy Valley, Coast Mtns. Currently, he is an Independent Avalanche Consultant working with some of the leading avalanche company’s providing forecasting, control work, training and mitigation measures. He worked for the British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation as a Senior Avalanche Technician for 9 yrs with the last few years as Supervising the Bear Pass Avalanche Program in Stewart. The area is one of the most active avalanche regions in the world.
Johann is a Canadian Avalanche Association Industry Training Program Instructor, and an Instructor for the Canadian Avalanche Skills Program Level 1 and 2. Johann has been teaching Avalanche courses for over 15 years. He is a Canadian Avalanche Association Active Professional Member, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association Member, Instructor and retired Senior Avalanche Dog Team. He has been snowboarding since 1977 and was the 1st snowboarder to complete the CAA industry Level 1 and 2 courses. He also is an Instructor for the BC Provincial Emergency Program Avalanche Rescue training. He is in the Association of Canadian Mountain Guide Ski Guide Program (on a snowboard). Johann is also an active on his snowmobile and has been sledding for 10 years and spends many days a year on his sled.
Field Assistant, CSAS
From a young age, Andrew has been completely obsessed with the mountains. He calls Silverton home, due in part to its close proximity to excellent skiing and climbing resources, and because it’s one of the last real mountain towns in the West. For several years Andrew has worked as Field Assistant for Chris Landry, at the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, studying the role that desert dust deposition plays on snowmelt and avalanche cycles in the Colorado mountains. This position, based in Silverton, gives him frequent opportunities to stick his head in the snow, tinker with weather stations, and develop his snow pit skills. He has also been a backcountry ski guide for nearly ten years with Silverton Powdercats, based on Molas Pass. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and has several years of experience as an EMT. When he’s not choking on powder, Andrew is most likely out rock climbing somewhere.
Level III Avalanche Forecaster/Educator, Counselor
Bruce has worked as a guide for Utah Mountain Adventures and White Pine Touring since 1996, teaching avalanche education and backcountry travel in winter months and rock climbing in the summer. He has taught individuals from 4 to 80 years young…though he admittedly loves the opportunity to connect with the younger ones who are just getting going on their quests for mountain adventures. He has taught and helped develop various avalanche courses for the Utah Avalanche Center, the Logan Avalanche Forecast Center, the Oakley School, the National Ski Patrol, the Silverton Avalanche School, the Telluride Mountain Guides, the Brighton Ski Patrol/Avalanche Education Team, the University of Utah, Westminster University, and Utah State University. He forecasted for the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center in the Northern Utah Mountains for four years.Bruce has also worked as a ski patroller, avalanche technician, and forecaster for the Utah Department of Transportation, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Resort, and the Solitude Mountain Resort.
He has been living and skiing the in Wasatch Range for over 30 years, compiling over 3000 days of backcountry travel and skiing. He is certified as a Level III Avalanche Forecaster/Educator. In 2006 Bruce completed a Masters in Social Work from the University of Utah, and he is now also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. His dream is to combine his passion for travel, play and educating in the mountains with his new found profession of counseling. He calls this idea: “Walk and Talk”.
Santiago (Chago) Rodriguez
Snow & Cryosphere Research Scientist, Avalanche Educator
Chago started his journey as an avalanche educator back in 1998, but his science background as a Control & System Dynamics Engineer attracted him to soak in everything related to snow science, fortunately regular participation at ISSW have somewhat satiated his addiction to snow science. In January 2013, Chago left behind Corporate America and is pursuing a PhD in Geophysics and snow science from Boise State University, where he is a Cryosphere (frozen water) researcher.
Chago is a AAA Certified Instructor, AIARE instructor, and a NSP avalanche instructors trainer as well as NSP avalanche L1/L2 educator. In South America, Chago teaches avalanche courses in Spanish, his native language. Chago has been through multiple National Avalanche Schools, completed AMGA Ski Guide course, regularly participates at various wilderness medicine courses and workshops, including WFR, and maintains his NSP-OEC certification current.
Chago has worked as a ski guide and a snow safety director for a backcountry skiing operation and served as a Technical Director for two avalanche education organizations.
American IFMGA / UIAGM Mountain Guide
Jayson is one of a handful of American IFMGA / UIAGM Mountain Guides and lives and guides in Crested Butte, Colorado during the winter months, where he’s been skiing well over 100 human-powered days a year since over the past decade. Along the way Jayson has been the Owner/Operator of Crested Butte Mountain Guides from 2007-2014, until he sold the company to local Irwin Guides, whom he is now the Lead Backcountry Guide in Colorado for.
Jayson is an AIARE Level 1 and Level 2 Course Leader, and holds an AIARE Level 3 Certification as well. He has been heavily involved in AIARE over the past 10 years, teaching multiple different course formats and in different places during that time, as well as being involved in some of the curriculum development for AIARE along the way as well.
When not in Colorado during the winter months, Jayson can be found guiding alpine climbing and skiing regularly in such places as Europe, Alaska, & South America. He is a past member of the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol; holds a Colorado Blaster’s License for Avalanche Control work & was a past Forecaster and the Board Member for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center.
Silverton Avalanche School Assistant Director
Mel started her snowboarding in New Zealand and spent a lot of her young adult life ski bumming between New Zealand and Canada. She lives in Durango with her husband Mitch, but bases herself in Silverton in the winter.
Mel is a long time snowboarding Ski Patroller at Purgatory, Avalanche Educator, and bike race organizer. She likes her biking, gardening and eating tasty cheeses.
AIARE Instructor & Mountain Guide
Zach is a full-time year round instructor and mountain guide. With Colorado as his home base, Zach enjoys a varied schedule from avalanche courses to technical rock and alpine ascents that lets him travel across the U.S depending on the week or the season. With a daily life that either involves a pair of skis or a harness (or both!) Zach is passionate about sharing experiences and knowledge with every guest he works with.
Outside of Silverton Avalanche School, Zach teaches and guides with American Alpine Institute, Peak Mountain Guides, and is an adjunct instructor for Western State Colorado University. He is an AIARE 1 Instructor, has taken several programs within the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), and carries a undergraduate degree in Recreation Outdoor Education.
Instructor and Guide
Stoney was born in southern California (which he doesn’t talk much about), grew up in western Colorado (which he’ll talk about at great length), and–after a bit of globetrotting–has chosen to stage in Silverton for a time. He has played outside his whole life, but started making it [somewhat] economically viable in 2009 at the Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Program as a Student Trip Leader. Since then, he has acquired and maintained WFR and paramedic certifications, AIARE Level II, swiftwater rescue training, Rigging for Rescue technical ropes and patient care training, raft guided for Adventure Bound River Expeditions (Grand Junction, CO), mountain guided for Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (Ashford, WA), and maintained a healthy appetite for foods of almost any variety.
In his free time, he is the Assistant Director of the Silverton Ambulance, an active member of San Juan County Search and Rescue, and sometimes makes it home to hang out with his obnoxiously affectionate chocolate labrador, Clark.
Sponsors of Silverton Avalanche School
Students at the Silverton Avalanche School have the opportunity to test beacons, probes, shovels, packs and other snow safety equipment generously provided by the following companies: