The following is a list of avalanche courses with an overview of the course. For course details, click the link.
|Course and length||Student||Objective||Hazard Management Outcomes||Link
General Public (tailored to):
- Middle & High School
- Skier, Boarders
- Mixed user groups
Public awareness of risks associated with recreating in the winter backcountry.
Provide information to access the avalanche bulletins, local info.
Provide information regarding “observable clues” that indicate avalanche danger.
Suggest a Level 1 Avalanche Course for further education or the Introduction fo Avalanche Safety.
Introduction to Avalanche Safety
1 or 2 days
General Public (tailored to):
- Riders frequenting avalanche terrain via lift access or easily accessible backcountry trail-heads.
- Day trip riders heading to "near country".
- Introduce riders to the risks associated with backcountry travel accessed via lift service and easily accessible roadside trail-heads.
- Review the history of avalanche activity in terrain the participant is likely to travel through.
- Introduce and learn basic avalanche safety practices common to backcountry travellers.
| Suggest a Level 1 Avalanche Course for further education.
DECISION MAKING IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN
3 days/24 hours
- Introductory student
- Recreational backcountry leader and party member
- Introduces the avalanche phenomena.
- More than an avalanche “awareness” course.
- Introduces planning and prep for travel in avalanche terrain, human factors, terrain recognition, “red flag” observations, terrain selection, travel techniques.
- Basic companion rescue
- Basic hazard management course.
- Uses rule based tools in combination with introductory knowledge based decision making tools.
- Stand-alone course.
- Provides link to level 2 course for backcountry leaders
ANALYZING SNOW STABILITY AND AVALANCHE HAZARD
- Backcountry team leader
- Introductory professional: ski patrol, guide
Advanced Avalanche course
- SWAG module, standardizes observation, recording guidelines.
- Advances understanding of mountain snowpack.
- Advanced rescue skills
- Improves decision making and terrain skills.
- Introduces stability factors/checklist and other stability evaluation tools.
- Adds snow stability evaluation to hazard/risk management model.
- Defines professional observation skills
- Professional course or advanced recreational team leader course.
- The SWAG module for the level 3 course
ADVANCED AVALANCHE TRAINING FOR PROFESSIONALS AND RECREATIONAL LEADERS
- CPD for forecasters
- Advanced recreational leaders
- Review of snowpack processes
- Review of new research
- Operational forecasting course.
- Advanced decision making in avalanche terrain.
- Advanced rescue skills
- Operational style stability analysis/forecast.
- Independent and team decision- making.
- Knowledge based tools used in hazard forecasting
Combination of levels 2/ 3; plus completion of Level 3 assessment leads to pass/fail certificate.
AIARE AVALANCHE AWARENESS
The AIARE Avalanche Awareness Program is offered as a public service to communities, schools and outdoor clubs. Program length is 1-2 hours. Specific programs are in place for middle and high schools, motorized (snowmobile) users, non-motorized (skier, snowboarder, snowshoer) and mixed user groups.
The course is expected to:
- Introduce and explain to students where and why avalanches occur.
- Describe who gets caught and why.
- Provide a basic approach to staying safe in the backcountry.
This course targets the young and unaware backcountry traveller, and introduces the recognition of avalanche danger and how to reduce the risk.
Student Learning Outcomes
- Learn to access local avalanche bulletins and weather reports.
- Recognize basic signs of avalanche danger.
- Learn to avoid avalanche danger.
- Understand the need for companion rescue techniques and equipment.
The course utilizes interactive presentation materials and local case histories and encourages questions from the audience. Participants that are more than casual users of the backcountry are encouraged to take a multiple day avalanche course.
AIARE INTRODUCTION TO AVALANCHE SAFETY
This course is meant to target riders frequenting avalanche terrain via lift access from ski areas and easily accessible backcountry trail heads and highway passes. The terrain is also known as "near country," "slack country" or terrain that sees local high use. Users are typically young, relatively inexperienced and thier travel is limited to day trips.
Student Learning Outcomes
- Participants learn to identify where in local terrain avalanches have previously occurred and may occur given the right conditions.
- Participants are made aware of local information resources including available bulletins, avalanche signs, ski area closure signs and local experts.
- Participants are introduced to the importance of a trip plan when mitigating the risks associated with travel in avalanche terrain.
- Participants are introduced to "red flags" and "obvious clues" in identifying conditions that contribute to the formation of avalanches.
- Participants are given a demonstration of companion rescue techniques and introduced to companion rescue equipment.
This course can be presented over 1 or 2 days. Since participants may come unprepared to travel in avalanche terrain this course is conducted within sight of avalanche terrain but not in avalanche terrain. Ski areas and safe, low angle backcountry settings are where the course will be run.
AIARE LEVEL 1: DECISION MAKING IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN
The level one is a 24 hour introduction to avalanche hazard management. The course can be scheduled over 3 days or two evenings and one day or however the course provider sees fit. The course is expected to:
- Provide a basic understanding of avalanches
- Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain
- Focus on identifying the right questions, rather than on providing “answers.”
- Give lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.
Students can expect to develop a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a trip, to understand basic decision making while in the field, and to learn rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person (if an avalanche occurs and someone in the party is caught).
A final debrief includes a knowledge quiz to test student comprehension and to give feedback to instructors on instructional tools. Students are encouraged and counseled on how to apply the skills learned and told that no course can fully guarantee safety, either during or after course completion. A link is made to a future AIARE Level 2 course.
Student learning outcomes.
At the end of the Level One course the student should be able to:
- Plan and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain.
- Recognize avalanche terrain.
- Describe a basic framework for making decisions in avalanche terrain.
- Learn and apply effective companion rescue.
Instructional sessions ( 24 hours including both class and field instruction) :
1. Introduction to the Avalanche Phenomena
- Types and characteristics of avalanches
- Avalanche motion
- Size classification
- The mountain snowpack: an introduction to metamorphism and layering
2. Observations and Information Gathering
- Field observation techniques
- Bonding tests: rutschblock, compression test,
- Avalanche danger factors; “Red Flags”.
- Observation checklist
- Avalanche danger scale
- Trip Planning and Preparation
- Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
- Route finding and travel techniques
- Decision making and Human Factors
- Companion Rescue and Equipment
Student Prerequisites :
Students must be able to travel in avalanche terrain. There are no other prerequisites
AIARE LEVEL 2: ANALYZING SNOW STABILITY AND AVALANCHE HAZARD
The level 2 course is a 4-day program that provides backcountry leaders the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge and decision making skills. This course also includes the introductory and prerequisite components for the professional progression: the level 3 certificate.
The Level 2 builds from the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the level one and adds to it the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation.
Student Learning Outcomes:
1. Advance understanding of avalanche terrain, particularly from the perspective of stability analysis.
2. Discuss how the snowpack develops and metamorphoses over time; and discuss the factors that contribute to spatial variability.
3. Learn standard observation guidelines and recording formats for factors that influence or indicate snow stability. SWAG MODULE.
4. Advance understanding of avalanche release and triggering mechanisms
5. Introduce a snow stability analysis and forecasting framework.
6. Improve companion rescue skills including multiple and deep burials.
Instructional Sessions (40 hours including both class and field) include:
1. Level 1 Review
2. Energy balance, the mountain snowpack and metamorphism
3. Faceting; near surface and near crust faceting
4. Formation of surface hoar and persistent weak layers
5. Skier Triggering: theory and observations
6. International and national snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording guidelines (SWAG).
- Weather; interpreting forecasts, recording and observation techniques
- Snow profile techniques and bonding tests
- Avalanche observations and recording techniques
7. Stability analysis checklist: reviewing critical factors
- Stability ratings
- Daily stability forecasts and analysis
8. Trip Planning and hazard forecasting for avalanche terrain.
- The avalanche danger ratings
- Terrain analysis using maps/photos
- Forecasting stability and variability
9. Terrain selection and route finding
- Group management and hazard management
- Decision making
- Human factors
10. Information gathering
- Site selection and relevancy
- Spatial variability
- Slope tests
11. Companion Rescue
- Level 1 techniques review
- Multiple burial
- Shovel techniques
Students must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain. An AIARE Level 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent training/experience is required. A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is recommended before taking the Level 2 course.
AIARE LEVEL 3: ADVANCED AVALANCHE TRAINING FOR PROFESSIONALS AND RECREATIONAL LEADERS
The Level 3 course is an advanced certification course for experienced and professional avalanche practitioners and professional guides. The course is 7 days long and completes the avalanche course stream of the Level 2 and 3. (11 days together). Individuals who receive a passing grade and successfully complete the course receive a certificate provided by the AIARE administration.
The Level 3 course provides course participants with an industry based framework to make decisions in avalanche terrain and to manage avalanche hazards common to avalanche control operations and winter guiding scenarios. Participants are required to form opinions, to take on leadership roles, and to utilized team members skills to assist in the process of forecasting avalanche hazard and snow stability and making appropriate terrain choices. Course goals also include evaluating each participant to the AIARE Level 3 standard.
The Level 3 course builds on the concepts introduced in the prerequisite Level 2. These include standardizing snow and weather observations and techniques to the Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Guidelines of the American Avalanche Association (2009). The Level 3 takes the “trained observer and technician” and begins the process of making the information relevant to the complexities, variability, and influences of terrain.
Student Learning Outcomes
- Develop a snow stability and avalanche hazard analysis and forecasting process.
- Be able to form opinions about snow stability, avalanche hazard, and operational decisions. Each day begins with a forecast, spends time making decisions in the field, and ends with a hazard analysis. Each hazard evaluation decision is carefully briefed, coached, and debriefed.
- Improve participants’ observation and recording skills.
- Improve the participant’s terrain analysis skills
- Improve decision making in the field.
- Improve understanding of the creation and metamorphism of the mountain snowpack.
- Encourage active participation.
- Advance participant’s companion rescue skills.
Lectures and case studies highlight human factors as they influence the decision making process.
New research is included where relevant.
The Level 3 instructors are required to be current with the latest research and educational tools in use by snow avalanche practitioners and instructors. Each course is presented by a variety of experienced instructors including mountain and ski guides, and avalanche professionals whose background includes ski area or highways control procedures.
Instructional Sessions (approximately 68 hours of class and field instruction)
- Pre course study and quiz
- Avalanche Terrain.
- Spatial variability and developing “excellent terrain skills”.
- Lectures, Case histories, and field terrain discussions
- Craftsmanship and professional standards
- Review of study plot weather and snow profile techniques
- Calculating densities
- Drafting techniques
- Review of snow crystals, sub-classifications
- Operational stability and hazard forecasting
- Twice daily meetings: am forecast; evening analysis
- Operational forms and recording methods
- Information exchange with nearest neighbor operations
- Weather forecasting: actual data, upper level data, ridgetop data, weather maps and images, forecasts, storm cycle trends
- Avalanche path photos and image use
- Run list use in hazard forecasts
- Avalanche safety equipment: burial prevention, reducing burial time, increasing survival time
- Companion rescue:
- Review of pinpointing on a line, multiple burials (3 circle search, micro strip search) techniques, shovel techniques
- Teaching techniques for patrol and clientele.
- Terrain travel and group management
- Relate the Wx forecast to field weather observation
- Gathering accurate info while moving through the terrain
- “Off line” information: quick tests to confirm information known and to reveal variation.
- Terrain discussions include: targeting known stability issues, anticipating, visualizing where will avalanches occur, where will the fracture occur, triggering, potential size, depth, width, and length.
- Creating options in the terrain
- Keeping field decisions consistent with office forecasts
- Human factors affecting team and team leader decisions
- Hazard evaluation, control decisions and safety margins
- Comparing field tests to study plot information, including probing, hand tests, bonding tests, test profiles, RB, fracture line profiles, ski tests, etc.
- Targeting weak layers
- Stressing site selection/relevancy
- More info over space to add to baseline data
- Use of snow profile checklist (“Yellow Flags, Lemons”) to prioritize characteristics
- Case Study: Operational decision-making
- Introduces a model of how decisions are made
- Reviews terms which include judgment, decision making, common sense, heuristic traps
- Illustrates human error and heuristic traps with a case study
- Student groups identify and describe heuristic traps in the case study
- Describes McCammon’s definitions of Heuristic Traps
- Concludes with common operational procedures to mitigate human errors.
- Preparing for the examination process
- Describe profile and field weather testing procedures
- Describe terrain exam procedures
- Describe written exam procedures
- Exam Day
- Field terrain exam (includes control targets and exercise to illustrate variability)
- Class terrain exam from photos
- Weather observations exam
- Snow profile exam
- Written exam (includes storm profile analysis)
- Issuing a public bulletin
- Course close
- Reviews the goals stated by the students at the beginning of the week.
- Links to continued professional development, skill development, participation in seminars, AAA membership etc.
- Debriefs student’s strengths and weaknesses
- Student feedback form
Level 3 Student Pre course Prerequisites
Level 3 is a course and exam that requires students to travel safely and efficiently in avalanche terrain. Field days will include travel on rugged terrain up to and exceeding 30 degrees, trail breaking, and 8 hours of travel carrying a day pack with rescue equipment and clothing.
Students must submit an application to the course provider which details they have met the prerequisites:
- AIARE Level 2 course
- Experience applying the Level 2 skills and knowledge in a professional or personal program is required.
- Personal resume :
- Twenty day-trips in avalanche terrain requiring decision-making and travel procedures
- Twenty day trips with documented field weather and snowpack observations (to AAA SWAG or OGRES Observation Guidelines standards)
- Ten recent snow profiles (documented in field book to same standards)
- Must be able to find (by probe) two transceivers buried in a 30m by 30m area in six minutes. (One transceiver is buried 30cm below the surface; the second is buried 40-60 cm below the surface 3 to 4m apart.).
- Led a rescue team in a mock avalanche rescue scenario OR have training and experience in a professional search and rescue group (e.g. ski patrol, etc.).
- Prior to the start of the Level 3 course, it is required that the student complete the Pre- Course Quiz which is handed in to the course leader at the start of the course.
Level 3 Assessment Criteria
Level 3 participants are eligible for certification after:
- Completing the pre-course reading and questionnaire.
- Attending the classroom sessions, completing the homework assignments to a professional level and participating in the group learning sessions.
- Attending the field sessions and participating in the group discussions and exercises.
Level 3 Participants are eligible for certification after attaining the minimum passing grade of 70% in the marking categories:
1. Avalanche hazard management skills 45%
- Recognition 15%
- Analysis 15%
- Response 15%
2. Technical Skills and Knowledge 55%
- Field weather observations and recording 5 %
- Snowpack observations and tests 20 %
- Operational forecast and analysis forms 10 %
- Professional notebook 5 %
- Final Written Exam 15%
Students who do not meet the AIARE Level 3 prerequisites may take a 1.5-day Level 3 Primer course to help prepare them for the exam. Participation in the primer course is by permission of the Level 3 Course Coordinator and/or AIARE Technical Director.
It is required that the Level 3 Course Coordinator
confirm the resume with references or have the student forward a photocopy of a field notebook illustrating field observations