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GCSAPP offering backcountry ski days and avalanche safety course

Programs targeted at high school students

By Cayla Vidmar

In a move to target the more difficult to engage high school population of the Gunnison valley in Choice Pass programming, the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Program (GCSAPP) is offering backcountry ski days and an avalanche safety course. GCSAPP is responsible for the Choice Pass program, which offers a discounted ski pass to Crested Butte Mountain Resort to students who pledge to stay substance-use free.

Students ages 14 and older will have the opportunity to attend one of four guided backcountry ski day weekends this season, in partnership with Backcountry Colorado. GCSAPP is also offering an avalanche safety course, via Irwin Guides. The course will not be a full AIARE Level One course, but “provides essentials for safe backcountry travel,” according to Kari Commerford, director of GCSAPP.

These programs “directly relate to two of the identified protective factors in our community; community opportunities for pro-social involvement and family connectedness and attachment,” Commerford says. Both programs are targeted to high school students, which Commerford explains has been a difficult population to engage in the substance abuse prevention programs.

Commerford explains the parent participation, which is encouraged but not required, is new this year, and says both programs “offer a more skilled-based experience for youth and families to engage in an activity together that allows students to solve problems with a series of steps that involve setting pro-social goals and generating alternative solutions.” Commerford says this allows youth to practice “anticipating consequences of actions, choosing the best course of action, and successfully executing the solution.”

Families who wish to participate in either program must attend the Avalanche Awareness Night on Thursday, November 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. Partners for the event include CBMR ski patrol, Crested Butte Avalanche Center, Mountain Rescue Team and Backcountry Colorado. There will be a ticketed giveaway for a Choice Pass ski pass. Families that wish to participate in a guided backcountry ski day must attend both the Avalanche Awareness Night and the Avalanche Safety Course, offered December 15-16. With questions, contact Emily Mirza, Choice Pass coordinator, at emirza@gunnisoncounty.org.

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