Course Details

Learn the foundational knowledge of avalanche terrain and risks to become a more-informed winter hiker in the backcountry.

Backpackers, hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers can face avalanche hazards both above and below the treeline. In this webinar-length (1 hour) course, we’ll provide the foundations for recognizing those hazards and a framework for assessing risks.

  • hazard assessment vs. risk management
  • hazard assessment: terrain, weather, and snowpack
  • risk management: route finding, human factors
  • interpreting avalanche forecasts

Key Questions

Some of the questions addressed in the course:

  • Why have US avalanche fatalities increased in the past 70 years?
  • How does the risk of and type of death change following burial in an avalanche?
  • How are hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and risk related?
  • How much control do you have over your exposure to avalanche risk?
  • How is avalanche risk related to aspect, elevation, and slope angle?
  • How can we relate what we see in the field to our topo maps/mapping app to evaluate avalanche risk?
  • What unique considerations do snowshoe hikers have to consider?
  • What habits can I implement to minimize my risk if I don’t have avalanche skills or gear?
  • How do I interpret an avalanche forecast?
  • What are the differences between persistent slabs, wind slabs, and storm slabs?
  • How can I use and interpret snowpit analysis graphs?
  • What human factors do I need to be aware of, individually and as a group?
  • Recommended books and resources?
  • Where to learn avalanche safety if use snowshoes, which aren’t allowed on some courses?
  • How do you know where to camp to avoid an avalanche plowing through your tent? (i.e., runout zones and runout angles)
  • Can I still use a 20-year-old avalanche beacon?

Course Curriculum

Module 1

Avalanche Safety Webinar