The AAA and AIARE suggests a maximum ratio of 1 instructor: 8 participants for the field sessions.
The course is not particularly physical but you will need to be able to be out all day in a range of weather conditions and you’ll need to be able to use either cross country or alpine touring skis, or snow shoes. We will be traveling short distances on steep slopes. No prior snow stability evaluation training is required.
Price includes instruction, loan of avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, and a syllabus. Local accommodation is not included.
The goal of this course is to help you learn how to make your own decisions about appropriate backcountry snow travel. The Level 1 course provides a complete introduction to the avalanche phenomenon, avalanche terrain, decision making, and rescue. This is an ideal first course for those new to travel in avalanche terrain and a great review or upgrade for anyone who has some experience or prior training but feels they need a skills “tune-up.” The Level 1 is designed as a stand-alone course for backcountry travelers, serves as an introduction to avalanches and is a lead in to the Level 2 Course for those wishing to progress further. During the course we cover the following topics:
• Types of avalanches
• Characteristics of avalanches
• An introduction to how avalanches form and release
• Avalanche terrain
• Trip planning and preparation
• Travel techniques
• Backcountry decision making
• Human factors
• Avalanche rescue
This course fulfills the requirements of the AAA (American Avalanche Association ) for a Level I course and the length of a Level I course has been extended to three days from the two days of previous years. Our course uses the curriculum and standards developed by AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education).
Day One: We start in the classroom with slides and lectures explaining the contributing factors in avalanche formation, followed by a closer look at the formation and characteristics of the mountain snowpack, types of avalanches, terrain analysis, and companion rescue. The afternoon we’ll car pool up to the snow to work on routefinding skills on snow, finishing the day with an introduction to avalanche rescue beacons.
Day Two: This day is also a mix of classroom and field. The morning is spent pulling it all together in a decision making framework and then examine the human factors which can make us ignore up all careful data collecting. In the afternoon we car-pool to our day’s location we’ll take a closer look at actual avalanche paths, trouble shooting potential routes of travel. The focus of the day is working on snowpack strength/bonding tests including: site selection, snowpack metamorphism, identification of potential weak layers, and practice with the tests.
Day Three: We take a tour bringing it all together with plenty of practice with bonding tests, routefinding, and beacon searches. We aim to conclude the day by 4.00pm.
For the morning class room work we use the White Mountain Research Station just out of Bishop and for the exact location of the on snow portions of the course we wait and see where the most interesting snow conditions are to be found. We have a variety of options in the Bishop to Mammoth area and you should expect to drive 30-45 minutes day. We will facilitate car pools to the snow each day but you should make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter travel.
Lodging is not included, but we have an arrangement for dorm style lodging at White Mountain Research Station. Let us know if you want the dorm lodging option and we'll help you make the reservation.
If you want more information on what to look for in avalanche courses we suggest looking at the AIARE website at http://www.avtraining.org
AIARE has put together a set of pre-course study material that provide you with a good background prior to the course. Follow this link to get it at the AIARE website.
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.