Several organizations here in the Vail Valley have partnered to offer a community avalanche awareness series. Each month, for four months, different members from the community are speaking on avalanche-related topics such as gear, terrain, weather, and rescue. While these workshops are helpful and informative, taking an avalanche class, such as a Level I or Level II Avalanche course, can be incredibly informative and more in-depth than a workshop or lecture series.
What to expect from a Level I Avalanche Course? I took my course at the Colorado Mountain College campus in Edwards, Colorado. About 15 people were in the class, and it was taught by avalanche gurus including ski patrollers, avalanche forecasters, and local terrain experts. We read material, watch videos, listened to lectures, and discussed scenarios in several evening class.
We also attended two full outdoor days practicing skills such as digging pits to analyze the snowpack (above right and below):
We also practiced using essential avalanche gear, including beacons, shovels, and probes. Our instructor buried beacons, and we searched in teams.
Finally, we learned how to use probes to pinpoint the location of an avalanche victim:
Avalanche knowledge is only one aspect of surviving difficult winter conditions, and many other opportunities to learn more winter survival skills abound. For a list and descriptions of additional winter survival skills camps and courses, see the article I recently wrote on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“Winter Survival Camps and Courses”
Many educational opportunities exist for those wanting to improve their winter survival skills. If you hike or snowshoe in the winter, skills such as backcountry winter camping, avalanche safety, and whiteout navigation can help ease worries when you’re in the outdoors. Here are a few schools, courses, programs, and camps that can help boost your knowledge and increase your enjoyment of upcoming winter adventures…click here to continue reading…
Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.