By Derek Lennon EBS Contributor

Skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowshoers, ice climbers, fat bikers and cross country skiers love to play in the mountains of southwest Montana. During the winter months, Big Sky Country provides outdoor enthusiasts with one of the coolest mountain playgrounds in the entire world. If you plan to enjoy it, please do so safely.

When you choose to recreate in the backcountry during the winter, you are responsible for your own actions. Knowledge, skills and experience can help you stay safe and avoid hazards while having fun in avalanche terrain. In addition to investing in the proper gear, reading the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s daily avalanche advisory and reading avalanche books, you should take an avalanche course.

Avalanche courses are taught by snow professionals who are keen to share their knowledge of avalanches with you in the classroom and the field. A proper avalanche course typically lasts a few days, and will dive into topics such as avalanche rescues, beacon searches, snow science, mountain hazards and more.

Taking an avalanche course is a smart investment. The knowledge and skills you learn just might save your life. Below is a list that you can use as a starting point to plan your backcountry education this winter. Sign up as early as possible because these courses fill up.

Here are some avalanche course options offered in southwest Montana:

American Avalanche Institute – AAI offers numerous avalanche education options in the Mountain West. These are the courses offered in Bozeman.

Avalanche Level 1 – January 18-21, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – February 8-11, 2018
Avalanche Level 2 – January 12-15, 2018

Beartooth Mountain Guides

Avalanche Level 1 – February 3-5, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – March 25-27, 2018

Beartooth Powder Guides

Avalanche Level 1 – December 8-10, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – December 15-17, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – January 5-7, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – January 12-14, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – February 2-4, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – February 9-11, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – January 27-28, 2018 – Snowmobile Specific
Avalanche Level 1 Refresher – December 2-3, 2017
Avalanche Level 2 – January 18-21, 2018

Big Sky Backcountry Guides/Bell Lake Yurt

Avalanche Level 1 – December 8-10, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – December 15-17, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – December 29-31, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – January 5-7, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – January 12-15, 2018
Avalanche Level 2 – January 18-21, 2018

BSAFE

At this point, BSAFE has not released the dates for their avalanche courses. Please consult the Big Sky Resort events calendar for the latest information.

Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

The GNFAC has a full schedule of avalanche courses and events for backcountry enthusiasts of all abilities. Please visit the GNFAC education calendar for more information.

Hellroaring Powder Guides

Avalanche Level 1 – December 15-17, 2017
Avalanche Level 2 – January 13-15, 2018

Montana Alpine Guides

Avalanche Level 1 – December 1-3, 2017 – Ice Climber Specific
Avalanche Level 1 – December 15-17, 2017
Avalanche Level 1 – January 13-15, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – February 17-19, 2018
Avalanche Level 1 – March 9-11, 2018

Yellowstone Ski Tours

Avalanche Level 1 – January 13-15, 2018

As you can see, there are plenty of avalanche courses offered across southwest Montana. Whether you take a weekend course close to home or opt for an avalanche education road trip, it’s well worth the time and the money.

For the most up-to-date information and full details, contact the above companies directly.

Whether you play in the Gallatins, Madisons, Tobacco Roots, Absarokas, Beartooths, Yellowstone National Park, Centennials, Crazies or beyond, have fun and stay safe this winter season.

Derek Lennon is a skier and writer who lives, works and plays in the mountains of the world. He is based in Big Sky, Montana, where he lives with his wife Mia and two dogs.

A version of this story was originally published on the Visit Big Sky blog at visitbigskymt.com/avalanche-course-montana-20172018/. Read more interesting content about the area on Visit Big Sky’s blog at visitbigskymt.com/category/blog/.