Avalanche Education Saves Lives

More and more snowsports enthusiasts are accessing inbounds avalanche terrain and the backcountry every winter in search of untracked powder and adventure. Backcountry terrain is neither controlled nor patrolled, and under the right (or wrong!) conditions, avalanches can turn adventure into tragedy.

While large avalanches can easily destroy anything in their path, smaller avalanches are more often responsible for injuries or death to people.  The overall survival rate for someone caught in an avalanche is one in three. These sobering statistics indicate that it is critical to be well-versed in both avalanche avoidance and avalanche rescue techniques.

NSP has been educating ski patrollers and other search and rescue personnel since 1957.  All NSP avalanche courses meet or exceed curriculum recommendations established for each course by the American Avalanche Association.  Course content is frequently updated to incorporate the latest evidence-based knowledge, skills, and techniques.

Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel (L1-R)

This is an enhanced Level 1 avalanche course with supplemental organized avalanche rescue content for ski patrollers who may engage in avalanche search and rescue operations.  This course is considered by the American Avalanche Association to be the minimum level of training for professionals who work and  travel in avalanche terrain.
Prerequisite: Ability to travel through steep, ungroomed terrain under any weather or snowpack conditions

Time commitment: Minimum of 28 hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Components: The course will:
  • 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.

Outcomes: The course will prepare students 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 Components:

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
  • Snowpack tests
  • Avalanche danger factors or “Red Flags”
  • Observation checklist
  • Avalanche danger scale
3. Trip Planning and Preparation 
  • Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
  • Route finding and travel techniques
  • Decision making and Human Factors
4. Companion and Organized Group Rescue and Equipment 

Introduction to Avalanche Fundamentals

This course introduces fundamental principles of avalanche hazard, safety, and rescue.  It is designed for patrollers who operate in areas with appreciable avalanche terrain, but whom may not necessarily travel in such terrain.  It qualifies as an NSP senior patroller elective, but it does not meet Level 1 avalanche course standards, and does not qualify as a prerequisite for enrollment in Level 2 avalanche courses.

The organized rescue portion of this course is suitable for personnel who may become involved in a support capacity in avalanche rescue.  Field exercises (in area) are part of this course.

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