By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – The Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, in partnership with Grizzly Outfitters, are offering a free Companion Rescue Clinic in Big Sky Feb. 8 and 9.

This is a new course offering this year, and instructor Jay Pape has already taught two – one in Bozeman and Hyalite, and another geared toward snowmobilers in Cooke City.

The idea: getting good with your avalanche beacon and rescue gear.

“Everybody thinks they know how to use this stuff,” Pape says. “Often times you buy a probe and shovel and you never touch them again until you need them, at which point you [might] realize the mechanisms don’t really work. You want to know how to use that gear when it really counts.”

The six-hour course includes two hours of lecture the first night – a quick overview of how to execute a rescue, discussion about the gear and making sure people know how to work it – and a four-hour field session with rescue scenarios in the Big Sky backcountry the second day.

The course is limited to 20 people, and registration is required. Register at mtavalanche.com, on the ‘Education’ page.