Continue Your Avalanche Education
What is your next step?
Avalanche education is a lifelong continuum. There’s a start, but there is no finish. The AIARE Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain program offers structure, resources and a learning environment dedicated to inclusion. Though, further practice and educational opportunities fill in the gaps of knowledge that come with the limitations of avalanche courses.
The first course in the AIARE progression is designed to introduce backcountry users to a risk management process. This course is for backcountry users who want contribute to a group with a strong voice. This three-day course provides an introduction to using The AIARE Framework to manage risk and learning from their experiences while traveling in avalanche terrain.
This course might also be a good choice if it has been several years since you have taken an avalanche course and you haven't spent much time in the backcountry since your last course. A more recent evolution of recreational avalanche curriculum is to ensure you have a process to manage risk, not just know about avalanches. If you don't feel like you have a solid process for managing your risk, taking an AIARE 1 course again might be a good step.
The avalanche rescue course is a one-day intensive course that creates an opportunity to learn and practice fundamental rescue skills in a controlled environment with constructive feedback from professionals. This course also serves as a regular refresher opportunity to practice seldom-used skills.
The last course in the Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain program is designed to be taken multiple times in order to help you continue to grow as an experience backcountry traveler, whether you have a couple of seasons or decade of seasons.
This course is designed to provide you with new tools to identify and manage uncertainty, which directly impacts risk. This means getting coaching from a professional in applying The AIARE framework in new situations. This course is for backcountry users seeking more advanced concepts, leadership skills, and the ability to apply the forecast in a more diverse setting.
Ask yourself these questions and seek the information to fill the gaps.
Where am I confident on my own?
Where do I lack confidence on my own?
Where am I confident within a group?
Where do I lack confidence in a group?
After completing parts of the AIARE Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain program:
Revisit your AIARE resources each year while PREPARING for the season
o Practice rescue
o Track the seasons conditions
o Investigate trip options
Retake the Avalanche Rescue Courses every two years
Take courses with different instructors in different venues
Seek mentorship and friends that keep you engaged in learning. Keeping an open mind and valuing other opinions is a great way to add to your informational database
Attend regional avalanche workshops for networking and information exchange
Become a member of the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and read their periodical The Avalanche Review
Consider taking wilderness medicine courses and advanced cold weather specific CPR courses
Building Experience Exercise
Think of these three variables:
As you continue to branch out into new areas, think of ways to keep at least two of the above variables as constants, only allowing one variable to change on a given day.
So for instance:
I am planning on a tour to a new run on Stevens pass in moderate hazard (wind slab avalanche problem) with my normal touring partners. I am well versed in recognizing and avoiding leeward (loaded) areas with wind slab and my partners have a similar risk tolerance as me. So the only variable I am changing is TERRAIN as I venture into a new run.
As you create new trip options catalogs, meet new touring partners, or travel in differing conditions and snowpacks, consider inputting these constants as a way to create a safety margin.