Continued Professional Development for Avalanche Workers

The Continued Professional Development (CPD) for Avalanche Workers course is a forum where operation managers, forecasters, team leaders, educators, and guides interact and exchange ideas with others in the industry.  This program targets career professionals motivated to continue the learning process.

CPD is common to most professions in the USA.  Organizations encourage their professional members to continuously upgrade their knowledge, training, qualifications and credentials, and thereby maintain a high level of competence throughout their careers.

Course is offered every other year beginning season 2014-2015

This course focuses on risk management and best practices in avalanche operations.  It considers both common ground and diversity in ski area programs, catski and heliski operations, ski touring operations, transportation and industry control operations, and public education and forecasting centers.  Facilitators and participants both contribute to round table exercises focussed on strategies and tools that improve the daily avalanche forecast, mitigate the hazard, communicate risk, and improve worker and public safety.  In contrast to annual avalanche seminars and symposiums, this course allocates the time and expert facilitators to encourage problem solving and integrate change, when appropriate, into the avalanche and guiding workplace.

Each CPD program is topically structured to meet current participant and industry inquiry.  Past topics have included:

  1. Risk and The Avalanche Workplace.
    a.  Working Alone.  Current issues, OSHA, comparative industry policy.  Managing the culture of risk tolerance in your operation.
    b.  Operational Case study:  Forecasting for natural events and managing the public and facilities as an element at risk.
    c.  Operational Case Study: Few clues and near misses.
  2. The “Safety Meeting”:  Trends, checklists, communication and documentation.  How teams discuss instability, hazard and risk.  Review methods of risk determination in comparative operations.
  3. Risk Communication Between Neighboring Operations.
  4. The Weight of Evidence:  craftsmanship and verification with field observations.
  5. SWAG and the International Classification of Snow Grains on the Ground (ICCSG 2008)—ensuring your observers and documentation are at the national standard.
  6. Combating The Human Factor:  bias and individual and small team decision making.
  7. Warming and Avalanche Release.  Current research and practical application.
  8. Managing Persistent Deep Slab Problems.
  9. Research:  recent observations of snow metamorphism and microstructure.
  10. Avalanche Balloon Packs:  Applied research, common practice, and cost/benefit analysis.
  11. Facilitating Change In The Workplace:  managing expectations and challenges.

Past facilitators include: Avalanche educators Ethan Greene, PhD, Boulder, CO (Researcher/Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center); Ian McCammon, PhD, Salt Lake City, UT (Engineer/Researcher); Colin Zacharias, Tofino, BC, (Consultant Operational Risk Management/ACMG, IFMGA Mountain Guide/Education); and Joe Royer, LaMoille, NV (Owner/Operator Ruby Mt. Heliskiing).

AIARE provides each participant with CPD documentation that includes a course certificate.  This document accredits course attendance, course dates, and hours.  Documentation includes a list of topics with formal and informal learning outcomes.  Course certification requires session attendance, individual contribution, and completion of a written report on topics introduced and reviewed during the course. Individual participant feedback is provided post course.

Participant Prerequisites

Note this program is for participants that have completed a current Level 3 certificate, or can fulfill a prior learning assessment (PLA) requirement that demonstrates qualifying knowledge and experience.  This course is designed for avalanche workers responsible for daily hazard mitigation.

The course includes backcountry travel on two of the four course dates.  Participants must be willing to work in a classroom setting for several days, be willing and able to interact, be keen to pose questions and challenges, and be prepared to problem solve in a small group environment.  Participants must also be physically able and prepared for winter backcountry travel, be able to carry a pack with winter emergency equipment, and be able to conduct weather and snowpack field tests and observations at an expert level.

Applicants are requested to submit a document with the following listed prerequisites:

  1. 10 years or more experience applying weather, snow, and avalanche observations and recording techniques in a professional and affiliated forecasting role (examples: agency forecasters; Heliski US membership; National Ski Area control programs using SWAG guidelines).
  2. Level 3 certificate, or apply to the AIARE Technical Director for a prior learning assessment that, if successful, recognizes equivalent knowledge and experience.
  3. Provide a letter of reference from a currently employed forecaster or lead guide that details and verifies the applicant’s work résumé:
    a.  Proven currency with Snow, Weather and Avalanches: Observation and Recording Guidelines in the US (SWAG. 2010 version). The reference letter must verify the applicant is current with techniques and documentation of snowpack tests, snowprofile techniques, station weather data analysis and recording, storm profiles, and avalanche observations to SWAG standards.
    b.  Experience leading a rescue team in a mock avalanche rescue scenario OR have training and experience in a professional avalanche response group (e.g. ski patrol, heliski guide team, highway control team etc).
    c.  Companion Rescue Skills including:  1) Ability with a transceiver and probe; 2) Two transceivers buried 80-100cm deep, in a 30mx30m area, in six minutes; 2) Ability with expedient shovelling procedures; 3) Rescue leadership.

For More Information:

AIARE Course Coordinator, Ben Pritchett  (970) 209-7594