Welcome to the 2014/2015 season!

Complete Course Schedule

Custom Courses:
• Military Alpine Tactical Training
• Mountain Mentor Course
• Work crews
• Mining industry
• Public Lands Agencies
• Executive Retreats
• College Groups
• Outdoor Clubs
• Friends & Family

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ABOUT the Silverton Avalanche School

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:

Mike Barney | Alan Bernholtz | Jeff Deems | Jim Donovan (Director) | Mike Duffy | Ken Gallant | Andy Gleason | Ian Havlick | Krista Hildebrandt | Aleph Johnston-Bloom | Doug Krause | Leo Lloyd |Tom Murphy | Stan Prichard | Ben Pritchett | Billy Rankin | Johann Slam | Andrew Temple | Karl "Skippie" Zeller | More

Michael Barney

Michael Barney, Silverton Avalanche School InstructorMike 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. 

Alan Bernholtz

Alan has been teaching Avalanche courses for eighteen years.  He teaches Level I, II, III for AIARE and has worked as a mountain guide since 1990.  He has been certified by the AMGA in Ski Mountaineering since 1997.  Has also run the Crested Butte Mountain Guides since 1998.  He has worked as a heli guide in Valdez, AK, Cat guide and Ski Patrol in Crested Butte for five years.  He started the Crested Butte Avalanche Forecast Center where he currently forecasts.  Besides forecasting he is still heli guiding, ski guiding, and playing in the mountains.  He likes smart people.

Jeff Deems

Jeff DeemsJeff 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.

Jim Donovan, Director

Jim Donovan, Director of the Silverton Avalanche School2012 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.

Mike Duffy

Mike DuffyMike 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.

Ken Gallant

Ken GallantKen 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.

Andy GleasonAndy Gleason

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.

Ian HavlickIan Havlick

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.

Krista Hildebrandt

Krista HildebrandtKrista 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!

Aleph Johnston-Bloom

aleph 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).  

Doug Krause

Doug KrauseDoug 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 Lloyd, RN/EMT-Paramedic

Leo LloydLeo 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).

Tom Murphy

Tom MurphyTom Murphy has been involved with avalanche education since the early '80s. He was a daily weather observer for the Alaska Avalanche Warning Center, did avalanche control work for the Coronado Mine and worked with well known educators Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler as a field assistant at the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. Tom was the general manager of Hatcher Pass Lodge in Alaska for 10 years where he was responsible for the many aspects of running a business as well as keeping guests safe in a mountain environment. He is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, a AAA Certified Avalanche Instructor, an AIARE Level 1 and Level 2 course leader, a fully certified ski instructor and has guided skiing trips in Alaska, Colorado and Europe. Tom was instrumental in the development of AIARE course materials and is the AIARE Director of Operations.

Stan Prichard

Stan PrichardStan is originally from Tennessee, and began his carrer instructing in the outdoors while a high school student developing his skills through the Baylor Schools Walkabout Program. As a student instructor he began guiding and teaching outdoor skills at an early age. After high school Stan attended Fort Lewis College where he earned a degree in English. While in college he completed a NOLS semester in Patagonia, Level 1 and 2 avalanche schools in Silverton, a season instructing for Outward Bound, and became an ACA kayak instructor. Stan is also a guide/patroller at Silverton Mountain and owner of the Treasure Mountain Hut. He has been working and guiding in avalanche terrain for the past 12 years. When not at work he enjoys reading, writing, and adventure travel.

Ben PritchettBen Pritchett

Ben is the Education Coordinator for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He has taught Level I and II courses for SAS since 2006. Ben lives in Crested Butte where he spends his summers guiding and chasing his wife Janae around on a mountain bike. His background includes several seasons forecasting for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, numerous years ski guiding and teaching level 1,2 and 3 avalanche courses, curriculum development and training avalanche instructors with AIARE, and 6 years working on the snow safety crew for the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse race. Ben is a certified AMGA Ski Guide, has a bachelors degree in Biology, a current WFR and owns his own guide service.


Billy Rankin

Billy RankinBilly 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 practioner, 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.

Johann Slam

Johann SlamJohann 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.

Andrew Temple

Andrew TempleFrom 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.

Karl "Skippie" Zeller

Skippie ZellerSkip was raised in the Wyoming and Colorado Rockies.  He spends summer working construction and winters working for Durango Mountain Resort as a full time ski patroller. He duties include, training coordinator, snow safety director, and weather and avalanche forecaster. He also works part time for San Juan Ski Company where he is occasional operations manager, lead guide, and holds a current Colorado blasters license for avalanche mitigation work. Since 2006 he has instructed for Silverton Avalanche School and has received AIARE Level I avalanche instructor training.  Fun finds him on the rivers in the summer with oars in his hands.

More Instructors from previous years ...

Betsy Armstrong
Betsy Armstrong was a researcher with the University of Colorado INSTAAR San Juan Avalanche Project, Silverton (winters) and the University of Washington Blue Glacier Project, Olympus National Park (summers) in the 1970s and ‘80s. In the early 1980s, she was an avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, USFS and State of Colorado, and has instructed at the Silverton Avalanche School, American Avalanche Institute, National Avalanche School, and Babes in the Backcountry courses. She has authored and co-authored numerous scientific and popular publications, including The Avalanche Book and the video Avalanche Awareness: A Question of Balance. She has been a contributor to The Avalanche Review and is a founding member of American Avalanche Association. She was the director of publications at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, COO and director of business development at the Women of the West Museum, and has been involved in all aspects of book publishing since the mid-1980s. Presently, she is a publishing consultant with a specialty in glaciological topics.

Richard Armstrong
Richard is returning to the Silverton Avalanche School after a several years’ hiatus.  He brings an extensive array of experience in weather, avalanche and snow science.  During the winters of 1971-1987 Richard served as Director of the INSTAAR San Juan Avalanche Project through the University of Colorado.  During the summers he served as the Field Project Manager with the Blue Glacier Project in the Olympic Mountains, sponsored by the University of Washington. Richard has also worked with the United States Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station in Fort Collins, CO.  There he was responsible for evaluating mountain weather and avalanche forecasting. And, From 1985-present, Richard has served as the Senior Research Scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) through the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Josh Butson
Josh is the owner and lead guide/instructor for the San Juan Outdoor School/Telluride Alpinism and the executive director of The San Juan Field School’s Education Programs. He grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and was introduced to climbing, paddling, mountaineering, and skiing at a young age and continues to make a point of finding new places to explore.  He has had training and certification as a mountain guide through the (AMGA), (AIARE) Level I, Level II professional avalanche training and Level I instructor training courses, (AAA) Level I and II professional avalanche training, WFR, and CPR.

Lee Dexter, Ph.D.
Lee has been interested in avalanches since the early 1970s when he took his first avalanche course here in Silverton. Lee has been a mountain shop owner/operator, a RMSIA certified Nordic ski instructor and mountain ski guide, and an avalanche forecaster for the CAIC. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 1986 and has been a university professor ever since. He currently teaches Snow and Ice, Weather and Climate, and GIS courses at Northern Arizona University.

Mike Friedman
Mike was one of the founders of Telluride Helitrax and its lead avalanche forecaster from 1983-1996.  He has provided snow safety consultations to the Colorado Department of Transportation, Silverton and Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad, numerous local mining operations, County Road and Bridge Departments and Walt Disney Studios, among others.  In the summer he is a mountain guide in Grand Teton National Park.  He is a professional member of A3.

Sandy Kobrock
Sandy lives in Pagosa Springs where she owns and operates Wolf Creek Backcountry providing backcountry lodging near Wolf Creek Pass and sponsoring AIARE Level I and II Avalanche Courses.  She worked 15 years doing avalanche control at Squaw Valley and Wolf Creek as a pro patroller ending her career as Patrol Director at Wolf Creek.  During her career she handled two Avalanche rescue dogs, Casper and Elliot.  Sandy is a Certified Instructor at the American Avalanche Association and an AIARE Level I and II Instructor.  She has ski mountaineered in Colorado, California, Oregon, Italy, France, and Austria.

Ann Mellick
Ann’s curiosity about snow and avalanches began while learning to backcountry ski in the Tetons.  Ann has a B.A. in Environmental Education from Prescott College where she later taught Avalanche Forecasting for eight years.  She has also taught snow and avalanche courses at Sterling College and the Silverton Avalanche School. She has been a climbing and mountaineering guide for the last ten years most recently working for Sierra Mountaineering International. She also worked as an intern avalanche forecaster for the CAIC’s Silverton office, which forecasts and mitigates avalanches for the highway 550 corridor.

Jerry Roberts
Jerry RobertsAs a young man, Jerry Roberts usually rode his motorcycle until he borrowed (according to him) his dad’s old Chevy pick-up and drove to Mexico with some buddies, beginning a new life and a new era for Mr. Roberts. After some digging we’ve found that Jerry has been in the snow/avalanche/guiding business for 40 yrs. and after “worrying for a living” forecasting avalanches on Red Mt. Pass and in the Chilean Andes, he found it was time to try something new. Jerry has taught and been involved with SAS over many years. He has served on the Board of Directors as the avalanche professional. He has also taught the Prescott College Avalanche Forecasting Course for several years and is a Professional Member of A3. Check out Jerry’s new blog http://robertreport.wordpress.com/ for a different take on snow weather and politics.

Chuck Rose
We have been very fortunate to have Chuck as one of our instructors for many years, unmatched by few.  He brings to us and to you an abundance of knowledge and experience.  Chuck has spent his entire adult life skiing professionally.  His experience includes 28 seasons as a ski patroller and 8 seasons as a Heli guide.

Keith Roush
attended Montana State University, studying electrical engineering, film production and snow.  Working in the mountaineering and ski business since 1971, he has climbed, skied and guided on three continents.  He worked with Royal Robbins guiding in the San Juans since 1976 and developed the first Telemark ski boots with Galibier in France. Since 2002 he has been the proprietor of Pine Needle Mountaineering in Durango.  He was President of the Board of the Western Winter Sports Representatives Association, board member of the San Juan Mountains Association, Silverton Avalanche School instructor since 1984 and member of the La Plata County Search & Rescue Management Team since 1983.  He is presently a board member for the Center for Snow and Avalanche Science in Silverton.

Peter Shelton
Peter comes to avalanche study from the direction of ski school, ski writing, and recreational backcountry skiing.  He taught skiing from 1972 to 1980 in California and Colorado, and was director of the ski school at Telluride.  He has written for SKI, Skiing, Powder, Outside, Mountain Gazette, and Backcountry, among others.  Ski writing has taken him to the Alps, Himalayas, and Andes as well as the Rockies, Sierras, Cascades, Chugach, interior B.C., and Appalachian Ranges.  Peter took his first avalanche course in Silverton in 1981 and has been looking at (and ski-testing) snow in the western San Juans for 30 years.

Craig "Sterbie" Sterbenz

Craig, known by many as “Sterbie”, has 35 of professional experience working, and playing, in avalanche terrain. He is currently the Snow Safety Director for Telluride Ski Resort, where he has been on the Ski Patrol since the mid-1970’s.  More than 25 years of forecasting and control work in the San Juan Mountains has given Craig a good look at depth hoar.  His experience also includes climbing in the Cascades and working in the field from the Sierra’s to the Selkirk’s and from Anchorage to Alta.  He has authored a number of papers for the International Snow Science Workshop and the Avalanche Review as well as serving on the working group which authored “Snow, Weather and Avalanche Observational Guidelines” for the American Avalanche Association.  He worked as a consultant for the snow safety plan development at the new Silverton Ski Area and for the USFS on Telluride’s recent expansion.  He attended the Silverton Avalanche School in 1975 and later joined the staff with the offering of the first Level II course.  Craig is a co-founder and former Director of the Telluride Avalanche School and has also worked as an instructor for the Northwest Avalanche Institute, the American Avalanche Institute/Snowise, and the National Avalanche School.  Craig is the Chair of “Standards Awareness” for the American Avalanche Association as well as the Chair for ISSW, 2006 in Telluride.  He received a BS degree from University of California, San Diego in 1970.

Walter Walker
Walter grew up in Central Colorado at the Climax Mine.  He learned to ski at the age of three and began backcountry skiing thirteen years later.  He served as the Ski Mountaineering Instructor for Colorado Outward Bound for eight years and has also been the Coordinator of Outward Pursuits for Fort Lewis College teaching avalanche safety courses and ski mountaineering courses.   He is a founding member of the American Avalanche Association and a long-time Member of La Plata County Search and Rescue.  He has taught for Silverton Avalanche School for longer than he can remember.