Avalanche Safety For Skiers And Snowboarders

Believe it or not, Calgary … it’s that time of year again. The mountains will soon be covered in snow and the ski hills will reopen for another thrilling season. Unfortunately, along with the joys of downhill skiing and snowboarding comes the threat of avalanches-particularly for those who enjoy exploring the backcountry. What better time to contact Mountain Skills Academy in Canmore, Alberta, to enroll in one of their Avalanche Safety Training courses. It might just save a life.

Wikipedia describes an avalanche as, “a sudden rapid flow of snow down a slope, occurring when either natural triggers or human activity causes a critical escalating transition from the slow equilibrium evolution of the snow pack … Even small avalanches are a serious danger to life, even with properly trained and equipped companions who avoid the avalanche. Between 55 and 65 percent of victims buried in the open are killed, and only 80 percent of the victims remaining on the surface survive.”

Mountain Skills Academy is the only mountain school in Alberta that is owned and operated by a professional mountain guide-Eric Dumerac. His company’s avalanche safety training courses are Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) approved and accredited, and they offer a combination of theoretical classroom training with practical skills training (field days) to ensure participants the best possible chance of protecting themselves from this natural disaster while exploring the backcountry. Mountain Skills Academy offers two courses in this area:

AST 1 (Avalanche Safety Training)

AST 1 is a two-day introductory course on avalanche safety designed specifically with backcountry skiers and snowboarders in mind and running the course using strictly backcountry equipment. The course is held in the Canmore and Banff, Alberta, areas of the Canadian Rockies and boasts a 1:8 guide to client ratio for a more personalized experience.

When compared with similar courses, an important distinction for the AST 1 course is that it is offered on backcountry skis or snowboards only. Other instructors are known to offer the same course to cross country skiers-and even people in snow shoes and winter boots-simultaneously, and this seriously limits the amount of terrain the class can see for learning purposes. Mountain Skills Academy knows the more terrain one sees, the better; and this course exceeds the standards developed by the Canadian Avalanche Center (CAC) to ensure top notch safety skills are learned. It also serves as a perfect primer for those who have never skied or boarded in the backcountry before.

AST 2 Plus Course

The AST 2 Plus Course is designed as a follow-up course for backcountry skiers and snowboarders who have already taken the AST 1 course and are looking to further broaden their knowledge of avalanche safety. This four-day course is held in Rogers Pass, Glacier Park, British Columbia, and also boasts a 1:8 guide to client ratio for that more individualized approach. The most important teaching method employed here is that, under the close and direct supervision of the guide, participants are put in the lead to help them develop the best possible decision making processes possible.

All of Mountain Skills Academy instructors are certified ski or mountain guides. This important distinction is worth noting as only certified guides are authorized to lead groups into avalanche terrain. Anything less would defeat the purpose of taking such a course as participants would be limited to non-avalanche terrain such as valley bottoms and would lose valuable hands-on, interactive training as a result.

Certified ski and mountain guides are the highest trained avalanche professionals for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, so participants can be assured the highest level of safety and training when they take these courses through Mountain Skills Academy. When it comes down to a life and death decision, nothing less is acceptable.

Visit Mountain Skills Academy’s website today for even more information. Or better yet, contact them via their online form to book your adventure today. You’ll be glad you did.

Avalanche Classification And Risk Table

A fast flow of snow on slope calls Avalanche, and it’s triggered by humans factors or natural.

Avalanche terrain – safety:

– Terrain management: is it’s know about a terrain that have a risk of avalanche, an individual must avoid to travel there.

– Advice: do not travel over convex rolls, stay away from terrain traps (gulleys that can be filled in), do not travel under cutting slopes and stay away from exposed rock. – Group management: reduce the risk to involve a member or the entire group into the avalanche. Advice: only one person pass over a slope (maintain separation), better route (slope) selection, camp only in safe zones, wear warm gear, must have an escape route and do not travel alone. – Risk Factor Awareness: must have many data, like: current snow condition, physical condition of the group, meteorological history of the area and weather forecast. – Leadership: you must know to read the risk factors of an avalanche to know which are the best decision.

Search and rescue equipment: Shovels (essential for digging), Beacons (avalanche transceivers), Avalung (new device which include: an exhaust pipe, a flap valve, an exhaust pipe and a mouth piece), Probes (collapsible, portable), Avalanche cords (~10 meter long red cord) and Other devices (Personal Locating Beacons (PLBs) or Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)).

European / United States avalanche size table:

1 – Low / Green: Snow – very stable, Natural triggered (avalanches) – unlikely, Travel – generally safe, Human triggered (avalanches) – unlikely 2 – Limited / Yellow (Moderate): Travel – caution in steeper terrain, Snow – moderately stable, Human triggered (avalanches) – possible, Natural triggered (avalanches) – unlikely 3 – Medium / Orange (Considerable): Human triggered (avalanches) – probable, Travel – increasingly cautious in steeper terrain, Natural triggered (avalanches) – possible, Snow – moderately or weakly stable 4 – High / Red: Travel – not recommended, Snow – not very stable, Human triggered (avalanches) – likely, Natural triggered (avalanches) – likely 5 – Very High / Red/Black border (Extreme): Travel – should be avoided, Snow – generally unstable, Human triggered (avalanches) – certain, Natural triggered (avalanches) – certain

Mountain Route Resources:

Avalanche – safety Avalanche risk table