We offer three Levels of Courses.
The Level 1 course is an introduction and review of the avalanche phenomena, travel techniques, decision-making strategies, and avalanche rescue.
The Level 2 course provides technical and scientific information that improves participants' understanding of how and why avalanches occur, covers the factors that indicate and affect snow stability, and introduces the snow stability analysis and forecasting process.
The Level 3 course is now taught through AIARE so go to the AIARE website for more info
The one day Avalanche Refresher course is for those who have completed a previous Level 1 course and at the start of a new winter want to brush up on the skills that grew rusty over the summer.
There are a lot of companies and individuals out there offering avalanche course instruction. How do you decide if you are getting someone who knows what they are doing? We urge you to consider the following when selecting a course:
Training: Ask your instructor what level of training he or she has. All SMC avalanche instructors are trained by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) and hold AIARE level III certifications. We are also members of the American Avalanche Association and support both these organizations' efforts to improve and standardize avalanche awareness instruction.
Experience: How well do the instructors know the materials? How long have they been teaching? SMC instructors (primarily Todd Vogel, SP Parker and Tim Villanueva) have been backcountry skiing and mountaineering for more than 25 years each and have been instructing for more than half their lives. As experienced teachers they can help make the most of your investment in an avalanche course.
Curriculum: In the past there is little agreement on what a particular course needs to contain or how long the course needs to be. Our courses are generally a day longer than some other courses you'll see offered. Naturally this affects the total cost of the course but when you prorate the difference between shorter courses we think you'll agree our courses are the best value out there. We have written and re-written our curriculum and tried to cut days out but we just can't recommend taking a Level I course less than three days in length or a level II course less than four days long, at least in the Eastern Sierra where travel time is generally long enough to preclude doing any class activity the evening prior to the start of the program. There is so much to cover and we believe that the most important part is the time out in the field practicing the assessment and decision-making tools these courses attempt to give you. We wish a level one course could be a week long!
Ratios: How many people are in the course? We keep our ratios low, especially in the field where one instructor to eight participants is our goal for the Level I course and lower for the Level II, so you can get the personalized attention that will help you practice and learn the most effectively.
What is AIARE?
Until recently there was no nationally recognized curriculum for avalanche education in the USA. There are many avalanche courses and programs available but in large part, course providers operate according to their own personal beliefs and ideas. There are few means for the public to assess the quality of an avalanche course or instructor. AIARE was formed to address this situation and has a curriculum that has become nationally accepted. We strongly support this program and believe that it is one of the best things for avalanche education to come along.
Get more information at the AIARE Website. http://www.avtraining.org/