ski rescue after buried under snow
This young Swiss skier survived after being buried by an avalanche for 17 hours. That's a miracle! Don't count on miracles.
ski rescue after buried under snow
This young Swiss skier survived after being buried by an avalanche for 17 hours... That's a miracle! Don't count on miracles. photo:

You have your Beacon, Shovel, Probe, Avalung, Air Bag… Now you’re ready to explore and dominate the untamed backcountry, right? Wrong. What do all of the aforementioned avalanche tools have in common? They are primarily designed to be put to use in the event of an avalanche. In that lies the problem – if you and/or someone in your party is caught in a slide, you have already failed.

When traveling/skiing/snowboarding/playing in avalanche terrain your number 1 objective is for you and everyone in your party to return home alive and unscathed (yes, this entails not getting caught in a slide). Having fun is a distant 2nd. And, seeing how a Beacon, Shovel, Probe, Avalung, Air Bag, etc. are crisis management tools, if these are put to use you’ve already failed objective 1 and most likely objective 2.

skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry comes with risks and responsibility
Skiing in the backcountry = Cool. Triggering avalanches = Not cool. photo: Garrett Grove

Sure, having the right equipment is an essential part of backcountry travel preparation. Yet, there will never be better backcountry preparation than the practice of educating your brain. And with copious amounts of snow forecasted to fall this month there is no better time than now to start training your brain.

A Level 1 Avalanche Course will present you (and your brain) with an introduction to the following essential aspects of avalanche awareness and safety: 

  • Types of avalanches
  • Characteristics of avalanches
  • An introduction to how avalanches form and release
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Travel techniques
  • Decision making
  • Avalanche rescue

Currenlty two different Eastern Sierra backcountry guide and instructional outfits are offering AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses each weekend through the month of March 2012 – sign up now to reserve a spot. Be sure to visit the websites for both Sierra Mountain Guides and Sierra Mountain Center for complete details on course curriculum, dates, and prices.

caution needs to be exercised in avalanche terrain
Do you know how to find the safest route? Easy, just take the route set by others, right? Sounds like a recipe for trouble to me. Travel techniques are covered in Level 1 Avi Courses. photo:

Whether you have 0 days logged in the backcountry or you’ve already slogged-away hundreds of hours on the bootpack/skintrack (and you haven’t taken an Avi course) the avalanche classroom is your next destination for exploration. No ifs, ands or buts… Holding on to that cash for a new pack/board/set of skins/whatever? It’s time to crack into the piggybank and make an investment into priority #1 – your brain.

avalanche safety and and awareness training
Getting to know your snowpack... another avalanche awareness essential covered in Avi Level 1 Courses. photo: Rick Kaiser

Sierra Mountain Guides, Level 1 Avalanches Courses

2012 Dates:

January 14-16

January 27-29

February 18-20

March 2-4

March 16-18

March 30-1

April 13-15

Course Length: 
3 Days

Cost per person: 

Sierra Mountain Center, Level 1 Avalanches Courses

2012 Dates

January 14-16

February 4-6,

February 18-20

March 10-12

March 24-26

Course Length: 
 February 3 days, 2 nights

Cost per person: 

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