Avalanche information abounds, but finding the right training can be tricky
Finding avalanche education specifically for snowmachiners can be a challenge. With the number of mountain riders increasing during the past decade, you may think that avalanche education opportunities have followed suit. Well, what’s happened is that opportunities have increased, just not as fast as the demand. There is also the matter of marketing – getting course information out to the riders looking for it. Where do you go to find an avalanche course? What kinds of courses are there and how much do they cost?
There are two different types of “avalanche education”:
Courses you pay for
• Taught by professional avalanche educators
• Typically last one-three days
• Provided locally, out of Anchorage, by The Alaska Avalanche School (alaskaavalancheschool.com) and out of Valdez (alaskasnow.org).
• This is a professional-level avalanche course
Courses that are free
• Often called avalanche “outreach” or “awareness”
• Typically lasts one-four hours
• Taught by avalanche workers with a variety of backgrounds
• Provided by many different avalanche organizations like the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center (cnfaic.org).
• This is an ideal, and free, way to start and continue your avalanche education. It’s how you prepare for a professional course AND, the more avalanche awareness courses/workshops you attend, the better prepared you will be to avoid being caught in an avalanche as well as rescue your fellow rider if things go wrong.
The CNFAIC has provided free avalanche outreach events for more than 10 years, and each year we tweak our snowmachine-specific curriculum in order to give riders the best bang for their buck. What you can expect from an “awareness course” is an evening presentation focusing on the “5 GETS”: Get the Gear, Training, Forecast, Picture, Out of Harms Way. Instead of lecture style, we use past avalanche accidents in our area to spark a discussion that brings out the GETS. Our last awareness course on Nov 30 was so popular we are scheduling another one. We had 120 riders attend – thanks to longtime CNFAIC supporter Alaska Mining and Diving Supply for the venue.
There is no substitute for getting in the snow and practicing rescue. This is what we do at our hands-on rescue workshops. The idea is for you and your riding partners to spend an hour and a half working with your rescue gear before heading out. CNFAIC forecasters are there to help teach, or remind you, how to effect a successful avalanche rescue. We talk about shoveling techniques, proper beacon use and many other topics relating to rescue and rescue gear. Mark the dates below on your calendar and we hope to see you at the parking lots.
from CNFAIC (cnfaic.org)
Jan. 6: Soldotna, 5:30 p.m., Peninsula Power Sports
Mid/late January: Anchorage, TBD (check cnfaic.org)
Avalanche Rescue Workshops:
Jan. 14, Hatcher Pass, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Gold Mint parking lot)
Jan. 21, Turnagain Pass, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Motorized parking lot)
Feb. 11: Turnagain Pass, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Motorized parking lot)
March 11: Turnagain Pass, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Motorized parking lot)
April: Arctic Man, date/time, TBD