North American skiers and snowboarders are flying south for the winter in Chile and Argentina to hone their backcountry skills during the summer months.

PowderQuest’s David Owen says that, for many guests on their South American ski and snowboard trips, it is the first time they have had a real chance to get their teeth into avalanche safety procedure.

“Down here in Chile and Argentina we ski a lot of backcountry, so obviously the first priority for any of our groups is a good session on avalanche preparedness,” he explains. “Everyone is asked to bring an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe, or we help them get outfitted when they first arrive.”

On their first day skiing in Chile or Argentina, trip guests are taken through how to use the equipment. Training includes assembling the shovel, probe and how to use the transceiver correctly.

“After the initial training, we split into small groups,” says David, “and practice finding the signals; first on top of the snow, then buried, and afterwards, several hidden in backpacks beneath the snow. Then we will carry out a mock event so that people can get a sense of the chaos and urgency so that, if the unthinkable happens, they are already drilled in the response.”

Guests are also instructed in self-rescue, which for many is the first time they have actively practiced this technique. David says that although there has never been an avalanche encounter on one of his trips, the Andes have serious backcountry so preparedness is fundamental. The training sessions are beneficial not only for their Chile or Argentina ski adventure but also for their future skiing once back home.

“Lots of our guests return home ready to do some serious avalanche courses and take their skills to the next level at the start of the North American season.”

All of PowderQuest’s lead ski guides are ACMG or UIAGM qualified and highly experienced in South American backcountry skiing. Because of the small personalized tours, trip guests get the chance to spend time with their guides and get to know tips and techniques that they might not usually get exposure to.

For example, guides are responsible for picking routes and testing snow, but clients get involved in the process and learn as they go. David says that after a tour, guests often say that it is the first time they have felt really involved in the complexities and challenges of backcountry safety.

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