Getting Started with Avalanche Education
January 7, 2021
Avalanche education should be top-of-mind for all backcountry enthusiasts this winter. Why? An unprecedented number of newcomers are expected to travel into the backcountry this season. This does not just pertain to skiers. Who else falls into this category?
Therefore, as avalanche educators and professionals, we are predicting a dangerous winter and want to provide you with the tools you need to travel safely.
You may know a few COVID-inspired outdoor enthusiasts who don’t plan to let winter keep them indoors. In addition, they may also have limited access to resorts due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This is why the outdoor and snowsports industries are seeing record-setting sales of backcountry winter sports gear. But, none of the products come with education on how to recreate safely in the backcountry.
Therefore, it’s an equation that can only add up to danger for both experienced and newcomers alike.
“It’s tough not to be very worried about what can happen this winter. When you consider the sheer number of people who will be recreating in the winter backcountry, many with a lack of knowledge about the serious consequences that can exist outside of resort boundaries. Getting caught in an avalanche can result in serious injuries or even death,” said Sarah Carpenter, lead avalanche instructor, and co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute (AAI).
As the oldest avalanche education school in the U.S., we saw this ‘perfect storm’ coming, and proactively did something about it. AAI’s 70-plus instructors teach in-person world-class avalanche education courses to both professionals and recreational enthusiasts. And new for this season, we’ve built online courses to help you get educated from the comfort of your home.
Over the past six months, our team has adapted its leading course curriculum with COVID-19 safety measures in mind. Attending an in-person field course? You will now complete your classroom portion online prior to attending the class. In addition, you have the option of booking a private, custom course for the group you have been quarantining with.
And finally, the creation of online courses such as the entry-level Avalanche Fundamentals Course, at just $30, can provide you with critical foundational avalanche safety information.
We still strongly believe that it’s essential to provide you with hands-on learning opportunities and time in the field with an instructor. But, in a season like this, we felt obligated to offer you additional online educational opportunities.
Therefore, our new online courses provide you with a solid foundation that’s more accessible and affordable. In addition, they limit face-to-face exposure to others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Never skied outside the resort boundaries? We recommend you take the Avalanche Fundamentals course if you are a newcomer to backcountry travel.
Have you already taken a Level 1 or 2 Avalanche safety course? Well, then you may want to take an Avalanche Level 1 or Level 2 Refresher Course.
AAI co-owner Don Sharaf, who has 25 years of experience teaching avalanche and mountaineering courses, feels it was imperative for us to find solutions to serve the fast-growing backcountry community.
“In these unprecedented times, we had to adapt quickly. The sale of backcountry gear continues to skyrocket and shops are selling out of touring skis, splitboards, boots, and bindings, with little to no avalanche education provided with purchase. Traveling safely in the backcountry not only involves getting the gear. But also knowing how to use it. I have been around long enough to see the value of continuing education and remaining humble in the face of the dragon.”
Before leaving the resort, or skinning up a trail, you need to be able to:
If an avalanche occurs, your backcountry touring partners will be first on the scene. Not ski patrol or search and rescue.
Your knowledge of snow and avalanches is essential for safe backcountry recreation. In addition, it’s equally important for you to invest in proper touring and safety gear before heading out into the backcountry.
However, the avalanche knowledge you’ve gained over the years is perishable if not used. Therefore, it’s important to continue your education after an in-person course. AAI’s online refresher courses are a great way to continue to grow your knowledge base and sharpen your skills.