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Avalanche Level I Certification

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
This past weekend I spend with some big names in Avalanche Forecasting getting my Level I Certification. This may have been quite possibly the best $170 dollars I have ever spent. I came away with a wealth of knowledge, and a little scared.

Friday night we spent at REI. We watched videos of slides, talked about snow crystals, grains and snowpits. We spoke about probability, control work and history. It was a great introduction to protecting yourself and your group in the backcountry.

Day two started out with more classroom work up at Alta in the Community Center. We learned more about safety, safe travel, and even glacier travel. We then went into the backcountry above Alta. We studied South Facing Slopes. We dug snowpits, studied the different layers of snow, witnessed weak layers, looked at snow at magnification. We did beacon searches, probing, and discussed multiple victim rescue. We did shovel shear tests, compression tests, Rutschblock tests, and various others to evulate snow stability. We discussed soft slabs, hard slabs, wind, wind drifts, dry slabs, point releases, sluff, climax avalanches, bed surfaces, graupel, depth hoar, surface hoar, flanks, headwalls, temperature gradients, how night effects the snowpack, coastal, contential, intermountain snowpacks, etc. We did density checks, and then some more. The instructors did a great job driving these tests, drills and sceneros into our heads through repeating them.

Day three we went back into the backcountry and did the same with North Facing Slopes. Amazing how much different that those are than South!!! We looked at trees, discussed 100 year avalanche events, and learned about flagging. We learned that nearly 100% of the terrain in and around Alta is avalanche prone. We talked about huge historical slide events that killed many, some inbounds! We learned why the buildings are built the way the are, facing the directions they do, and why the roofs are flat. We learned how to safely travel through slide paths, how to avoid them, and even some new skinning techniques I was not aware of. We then made a few laps off the back side of Catherine's Area at the pass. Made some great turns and went back to the base of Alta. Then back to the class room for a review.

Upon leaving the class, we walked outside and found it snowing very hard. Of course I took the next morning off work to sample the "13 inches" of new snow that skied more like 24!

What a weekend. All I can say is if any of you are considering going into the backcountry, please take this class. I've learned a lot over the past few years from the experienced, but this was leap years of information! This was a great thing for me to do and I recomend it to all. Piece of mind for my family was worth the money alone.

I'll be getting my Level II once I get a little more experience.

[ December 17, 2003, 09:43 AM: Message edited by: AltaSkier ]
post #2 of 9
Hey AltaSkier,

Great report. Where did you register for the class and is it an ongoing program? I've wanted to take just such a class; but, my circle of skiing friends does little or no B/C skiing.

I need to hook-up with some local people that will drag me around all the fabulous places in our back yard.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Check here:


Registration information is listed with the individual class.

I'd be happy to spend some time in the backcountry with you, but can't really show you much as far as terrain. Still learning my way around.
post #4 of 9
Another resource is the National Ski Patrol, which conducts courses in Outdoor Emergency Care, Avalanche I & II, Mountain Travel and Rescue and other areas. Here is the link to the educational information: http://www.nsp.org/nsp2002/edu_templ...de=course_info

The NSP Course Schedule tab should help you find a course anywhere in the country.

I don't know how much the courses cost but for me, as a patroller, I pay my annual fee of about $80 and all the courses are free, I do have to buy the books.

On top of the avalanche courses I would suggest that anyone extensively skiing the backcountry take the Outdoor Emergency Care, or at a minimum a good first aid course.

Last thought. Always make sure you are the LEAST qualified member of your party in medical, avalanche, probe, and beacon skills. Then make sure your skills are top notch. Remember, if you are caught in an avalanche and the other members skills are all but nonexistent, you're probably going to die regardless of how good your beacon, probe, avalanche or medical skills are.

Good luck, be safe, and have fun out there.

post #5 of 9
Go to the link that AS gave above and you will find this class.


Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center
P. O. Box 521353
Salt Lake City UT 84152-1353
(801) 365-5522
January 17-19, 2004: Level I Brighton 3-Day Avalanche Workshop. (Martin Luther King weekend) Sign-ups at the Black Diamond Store - 2092 East 3900 South, SLC, UT Cost $175. This is an intensive three-day workshop which begins about 8 am each morning and ends around 9 pm each evening. Avalanche skills can only be learned by doing, so about 60% of the class is outdoors on the snow actually practicing avalanche skills. The other 40% will be indoor lectures. Course content includes avalanche rescue, terrain management and safe travel, snow pack stability evaluation, and the human factor. The course is based out of the Wasatch Mountain Clubs Lodge at Brighton, and lodging is included in the cost. Instructors include Utah Avalanche Center forecasters.

Students must provide the following equipment: warm clothing, 457 kHz beacon and shovel; skis with climbing skins or snowboard with snowshoes/skins.

There will be a potluck supper Sunday night, so you should bring a dish to share. Sneakers or slippers to wear inside the lodge will be convenient. Course taught by Utah Avalanche Forecast Center forecasters.

Students can spend the night at the lodge; bring a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad, earplugs, along with your own pots, pans, dishes and silverware.

Your spot can be reserved by dropping off a check for $175 at the customer service desk at Black Diamond, address above. If you cancel within a week of the workshop $50 is non-refundable. For further details call Black Diamond.


I took this class a few years ago as a refresher and it was good. It was taught by the UAC forecasters, a real plus IMO. Also, 175$ for 3 full days is the best deal around. And you just gotta spend time at the WMC Lodge, a huge, old log lodge.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi Mary!
post #7 of 9
Originally posted by AltaSkier:
Hi Mary!
Heya hiya! Way to go on the avy class, looks like you took the AAI class? Now all you have to do is try to get a grip on the 2 leading causes of avy deaths (IMO). Temptation and ego/pride. If you get these figured out, lemme know and then you can teach me. Sometimes/oftentimes ya gotta "just say no". [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]

Maybe you've read this story, if not, it's a good sobering read.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hey Mary, sounds like you know the AAI Class. We did talk about the Seven Deadly Sins and how they relate to backcountry skiing. Then we looked at a picture of a heard of sheep. Kinda strange huh?

We even saw pics of the Roman Slide, and discussed it. Even expert backcountry folks have problems. No names were mentioned but I had read the story you posted a link to and recognized the pictures. I was actually trying to find it for Fredo to read. Thanks for posting it. One of our instructors was on the call that day. Sad, very sad.

See ya at the 'Bird in the New Year?
post #9 of 9
Comparing humans to sheep is an insult to the sheep! If you do see me, feel free to run me over, it would probably do me some good.

[ December 19, 2003, 09:15 AM: Message edited by: mary ]
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