Avalanche Training - Snowmobile AIARE Courses

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Overview

Ready to step out of bounds and into the backcountry?  Knowing how to judge avalanche conditions, where it's more dangerous to travel versus where it is less dangerous, and being able to carry out a successful rescue if caught in an avalanche, are essential skills that everyone should be aware of and familiar with before heading into the backcountry.

On average 37 people are killed each year by avalanches in the United States alone. According to AIARE, in the last five years, 25% of the avalanche fatalities have been individuals on snowmobiles or snowbikes. Almost all of these avalanches are started by the people caught in them. Some basic level of training and knowledge can dramatically increase your margin of safety while traveling in the backcountry.

Avalanche Level 1 from John Grace on Vimeo.

Similar to the course for skiers, boarders and mountaineers, but this course is for the motorized community and taught by experienced sledders. We will teach students what to look for in the snow pack, how to test stability, how to read terrain and avoid danger zones, and how to rescue themselves and partners if caught in an avalanche.

If you are unable to make any of the scheduled course dates, or are interested in any variation of the AIARE Avalanche program, please contact us.

 

Course Goals and Objectives

The goals of this course are to:

  • Provide a basic understanding of avalanches.
  • Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain.
  • Focus less on providing "answers" and more on identifying the right questions.
  • Provide lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.

 

Analyzing compression test results.

Analyzing compression test results. Dyan Padagas

The objectives of this course are to teach:

  • Types of avalanches
  • Characteristics of avalanches
  • An introduction to how avalanches form and release
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Travel techniques
  • Decision making
  • Avalanche rescue

 

This course does not cover snow science or avalanche technology in any detail. While it touches on and introduces advanced subjects such as snowpack development and metamorphism, these are discussed at a basic, non-technical level. 

 

Course Summary

Motorized Avy - In the flats (cropped)

Riders regroup in the flats to discuss their observations and to make a plan for the rest of their afternoon. Samuel Chenard

When you leave this course you can expect to have a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a trip, basic decision making while in the field, and rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person if an avalanche occurs. Most of these techniques require extensive practice before you can expect to be proficient and no course, this one included, can provide all that experience.

To establish and maintain proficiency in the knowledge and techniques covered in this course, one will have to practice extensively and regularly on their own after leaving the program.


Testimonials

"Tom was great, it was clear he was extremely proficient and passionate about what he teaches. Additionally, he was engaging and was able to explain curriculum in different ways making sure everyone understood it."
Spencer H. (Cle Elum, WA)

"I already recommended Tom to my friends. Tom is wonderful! He is excruciatingly knowledgable on snowpack/terrain and is stylistically more instructional. In regards to human factors, it's very hard for me to not completely trust him. He is very good at what he does."
Jessica Y. (Seattle, WA)

"The flow and delivery of the field portion were impeccable. We were incredibly efficient covering all the required parts of the course. At the same time it was incredibly thorough. "
Mark H. (North Bend, WA)

"I came into this course with a fair amount of knowledge expecting it to reiterate a lot of what I knew. Instead Tom helped point out flaws in some of the ways in my thinking and decision making in the backcountry. That's what I needed to hear and it's been really helpful. I value his directness and his clear experience. I felt comfortable asking questions and really valued his opinion."
Carl P. (Spokane, WA)

Avalanche Training - Snowmobile AIARE Courses

Curriculum

AIARE Curriculum Transition

American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) was founded to provide instructors with the tools to educate students about the knowledge and decision making skills necessary to travel in avalanche terrain.

The American Alpine Institute's Avalanche Course instructors are AIARE-trained instructors and will teach the standardized AIARE curriculum on each course.

Avy 1 - AIARE

 

There is 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. They have developed and continue to develop standardized curriculum for a complete program of avalanche courses that meets the needs of students at all levels, from recreational to professional and from novice to advanced.

Over the last fewyears, AIARE has diligently worked in conjunction with experts in the snowmobile community to develop a motorized specific curriculum.

More than anything, AIARE wants to increase avalanche education participation in the snowmobile community. With the increased power and capabilities of a snowmobile; snowmobilers are able to climb higher and further than human powered backcountry travelers. This puts snowmobilers at  a greater risk of entering avalanche terrain unaware of their surroundings and the potential dangers in the backcountry.  

 

Online Curriculum

AIARE has developed an Online Training to go along with the standard classroom and in-field coursework. In the past, this online curriculum was presented as an optional component to the training, even though it added a large amount of value and gave students time to gradually digest the course material over a longer period of time and in the comfort of their own home.

This year, after receiving feedback from both instructors and students on how valuable the online training was in helping students have a better understanding of the concepts presented in the course, AIARE has made the Online Training a mandatory part of the AIARE Rec 1 Curriculum.

The Online Training adds an additional 8 hours of self-paced online instruction to the traditional 3 day/24 hour course to even further deepen students’ understanding of new avalanche terminology and concepts. The online instruction and resources give students the opportunity to go as in depth as needed, allowing students to individualize their instruction. The increase in total instructional time frees up more face-to-face classroom and field time to focus on skills development, giving students more time in the field working with an instructor.

The online instruction is an integral part of this course; it is not a supplementary activity. Students will find themselves significantly behind if they are not able to complete the assignment or look over the content.  Since this additional time is critical to the success of each student on the course, registrations for these courses will be closed 1 week before the start date.  

Through a relevant and engaging assignment, students will develop a basic understanding of avalanche terminology, identifying avalanche terrain, and how the mountain snowpack forms. Knowledge quizzes allow students to check their understanding to be as prepared to take the most away from their face- to-face instruction. They will also learn how to apply the information provided by forecast centers to their trip plans, allowing for more practice planning trips during a course.

Avalanche Training - Snowmobile AIARE Courses

Dates and Locations

Snowmobile Specific Courses

Motorized Avy - Deep turns snowmobile

Leavenworth and Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest or 
Bellingham and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Nat'l Forest

These courses are specifically for snowmobile and snowbike enthusiasts.  The course is broken up into a two online evening lecture sessions on Tues & Thurs, and then the field days will be either on the south side of Mt. Baker or near Sugarloaf Peak, north of Leavenworth, on Saturday and Sunday. Instructors and students will be on snowmobiles for the field portions of the course.  In addition to the standard avalanche curriculum, students will learn about special circumstances and situations that are unique to snowmobilers.

If you have a group interested in taking this course, but the dates listed below do not work for you, please contact our office as we may be able to set up a special date for you and your group.

  • Jan 10 & 12 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 14 - 15 (field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest)
  • Jan 31 & Feb 02 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 04 - 05 (field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest)

Avalanche Training - Snowmobile AIARE Courses

Details

Prerequisites

You will need to have previous experience on your machine. The field days of your Avalanche Course should not be the first time you are on your setup. 

In addition to the backcounty experience mentioned above, you should also:

  • Have good physical fitness
  • Be able to dress appropriately for being outside in snowy, winter conditions and be outside for a full day
  • Be able to maintain your personal nutrition and hydration needs throughout the day (you may not have an official break for lunches - these are often done "on the go" - so you need to be able to manage your personal needs in this regard). If you have extenuating circumstances, please be sure to notify both the Administrative office when registering and also notify your Course Leader on the first morning of your course so they are aware.

 

Rental Equipment

Motorized Avy - Cloudy morning

Two riders head out early on a cold, cloudy morning. Having good gear is essential to a quality day on the snow.
Lotus Raphael

Avalanche Gear

The AAI Equipment Shop rents avalanche gear, including beacons, probes, and shovels. Pricing for two days is as follows:
Avalanche Kit (beacon, probe, shovel): $55
Beacon only: $35
Probe only: $15
Shovel only: $12

We also have airbag packs, skis, splitboards, and other equipment for rent. See AAI rental pricing sheet for full details and availability. Requests for rentals must be received one week before the start of your course. Requests received later than than may not be honored.

Once you are enrolled in a course with AAI, you are then eligible for a 15% discount on all rentals and regular priced retail merchandise.

Contact our shop at 360-671-1570 for more information. 

 

Logistics and Lodging

The course runs 7:30am to 5pm each field day, and you must provide your own transportation, food, and lodging throughout the course.

It is recommend that your lodging have good internet access. You will need to be able to access the avalanche forecasts the evenings before your field days so that you can do your planning homework.

 

Avalanche Training - Snowmobile AIARE Courses

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