BIG SKY – If you plan to be recreating outdoors this winter, whether that means hitting the slopes donning skis or snowshoes, or cruising through white stuff on a snowmobile or fat bike, you’re sure to benefit from lessons taught in an avalanche course.
A variety of institutions offer avalanche safety training designed for recreationists as well as professionals. The recreation-track courses are usually broken into level 1 and level 2 trainings and are geared for both new or seasoned backcountry enthusiasts, and cover all aspects of backcountry travel, from trip planning and communication to recognizing avalanche terrain. Some are geared especially for snowmobilers, while other courses provide a walkthrough of rescue fundamentals.
Many avalanche safety courses are taught in the field so as to give hands-on experience to the participants. Instructors are usually professional ski guides, snow safety professionals or avalanche forecasters.
The American Avalanche Association—known as A3—is a national nonprofit organization that certifies avalanche training programs and a variety of their curriculums are offered in southwest Montana. A3 recommends backcountry users begin with an Avalanche Awareness course, then proceed to Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue. From there, consider furthering your experience in a Level 2 course.
According to A3, 25 to 30 people die in avalanches in the U.S. each year while many more are injured every winter.
Visit avalanche.org for more information about avalanche safety courses or check out the Big Sky Avalanche Foundation for Education on Facebook or Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center at mtavalanche.com for information on local courses.