Mountain Safety
March 15th, 2017

So, You’ve Been Meaning to Take an Avalanche Course…

Feature photo by Colin Wallace

Mountain sledders are busy people. They work hard to get by, provide for their families and have a little fun when they get the chance. Winter is not the season of wasted weekends for those that are afflicted with the mountain sledding addiction. So it’s understandable in a way that even sledders with the right mindset and the very best of intentions can find it hard to buckle down and do what they probably already know they should do: sign up and commit to an avalanche course.

So, You’ve Been Meaning to Take an Avalanche Course…

If you live in Canada and ride mountains, the Avalanche Skills Training (AST 1) should be the bare minimum training required for riding in the mountains. Should it be legally required? Probably not. But should the AST 1 avalanche course be morally required by the standard of the mountain sledding community at large? Absolutely.

What does that mean? It means that if you are a mountain sledder, and you have a friend who has not done the most basic avalanche course offered in Canada, then you will refuse to ride in the mountains with them. It means that you will do everything in your power to see that your friend takes the course, and learns well from it.

It means that you will speak up and positively reinforce the importance of basic avalanche training when you see riders in the mountains without it.

And it means that you will actively promote the idea that no mountain rider should be without at least AST 1 training.

What to Do If You Haven’t yet Taken an Avalanche Course

If you ride in the mountains—or plan to—but haven’t taken an avalanche course, don’t be ashamed. It’s not too late for you. Avalanche Canada can help you do the right thing for yourself, your friends and your family. Here’s where to start.

Avalanche Canada has developed an online primer for those that haven’t yet had training. It starts with a video that shows the importance of training, by way of a real-life scenario in which a group of four were buried by an avalanche, but all survived—not by some miracle, but through the quick and effective use of the avalanche rescue training they had undergone.

The primer also uses an interactive site to tell the story of the “Rescue at Cherry Bowl” in detail.

Online Avalanche Tutorial

The bulk of the primer is an online avalanche tutorial that introduces the basics of avalanche safety, terrain recognition and avalanche rescue technique. Chapters include: Avalanche Formation, Avalanche Terrain, Pre-Trip Planning, Reducing Risk in the Field and Rescue.

Here it is:

Go Farther — Get Avalanche Trained

This online primer is a wonderful resource; it is free and can be done from home in the spare moments of even the busiest life.

Note that the Avalanche Canada online avalanche tutorial is not meant to replace the AST 1 course. It was developed as a catalyst for the further learning (AST 1) that should be mandatory before riding in the mountains.

Think of it as the starting point for a life-long learning journey of avalanche safety knowledge and experience.

— MS