Guest Blog: Tina Greene’s Avalanche Class

January 16, 2017

One of our avalanche class scholarship recipients Tina Greene (44 of Wilson, WY) shares her avalanche class experience below.

About fifteen years ago, I attended an avalanche level one course. After, I entered the backcountry on and off for several years before moving to Jackson. My first winter on Teton Pass, I was given an used Burton splitboard. The equipment was the worst. The skins fell off multiple times. The bindings froze into place, making the necessary changeover impossible. Oddly enough, I was pumped to try it again and again. Amidst a long list of equipment fails, I did myself one favor, I traveled with knowledgeable partners who shared what they understood about weather, terrain and snow. After a few years, I invested in the perfect splitboard and felt comfortable with all the aspects of touring. Yet, I realized I needed to revisit my avalanche skills. I wanted to be an active participant in the conversations with my partners rather than simply trusting others to make the call. As a result, I ended 2016 with an avalanche level one course through the American Avalanche Institute thanks to a JH Babe Force scholarship.

As I sat down in a conference room at the Lexington Hotel, I scanned the room and typed the following text to a friend: “First impression: it’s all boys. Girl power? Activate!” The fact that I was the only female in the course speaks to the necessity of the JH Babe Force and their scholarships. I was proud to represent. Our instructors where some of the most qualified people I have ever encountered. I was grateful for their knowledge and humor. The mix allowed me to understand the snow science and other factors presented in the three days.

The majority of the course was in the field. We ended the first day on Teton Pass in chest deep snow swimming up and down a mellow slope working on our beacon rescue skills. It was eye-opening to actually practice what I might do in a crisis situation. The second day was eight hours on Teton Pass. In my group, I was the lone female and one of only four other splitboarders who were all at least 20 years my junior. It was a fun group. We skinned out to Avalanche Bowl and dug a pit to investigate the layers, talking through what we saw and what it meant for riding. We then got to ride down and skin up a few more times checking out terrain and choosing the safest line for skinning. The experiential-style of this day helped make the abstract concepts translate to a typical day on a backcountry tour. It was nice to go home that evening and have a conversation with my snow smart husband where I had something to add.

On the final day, we spent some time investigating snow layers on Mt. Glory then ended with a class session discussing the human factors involved in backcountry travel. The parting words from our instructors are worth repeating. Traveling safely in avalanche terrain is not guaranteed simply because I attended a course. I must get out and test the snow, track weather and converse with partners in order to make the best decisions. I realize now that this is a skill that requires life-long learning so that each time I pause at the top of a mountain gazing upon my future line, I have done my homework.

My first experience with my husband after the class was a stormy day on Glory. We talked through our options as a team, for once. We checked out snow a bit before choosing a safe (and deep) line together. It meant so much to have a voice and to feel confident to use it. I look forward to expanding my knowledge as I seek out new and challenging zones with my splitboard at my feet.