Avalanche Program

The Introduction to Avalanche course is a great opportunity for the outdoors adventurer to expand their knowledge of safely participating in challenging but fun back country activities. Whether you are an avid skier, a back country hiker, or an aspiring or accomplished mountaineer, this course will help you improve your awareness of the surrounding environment and allow you to enhance, but safely, your experience. The course is a good mix of classroom education on the risks and structural features of avalanches and an introduction to the basic tools for detecting and rescue techniques. The course leaves you with a greater appreciation and awareness while traveling in avalanche prone territory and hopefully inspires you to learn more to enhance you Ski Patrol skills.

For more information, contact Region Avalanche Advisor: John Boburchuk.

From the NSP Avalanche Program page

More and more skiers, snow boarders, snowshoers, and snowmobilers are accessing the back country every winter in search of untracked powder and adventure. Back country terrain is neither controlled nor patrolled, and under the right (or wrong!) conditions, avalanches can turn adventure into tragedy.

While large avalanches can easily destroy anything in their path, smaller avalanches are more often responsible for injuries or death to people. The overall survival rate for someone caught in an avalanche is one in three. These sobering statistics indicate that it is critical to be well-versed in both avalanche avoidance and avalanche rescue techniques.

NSP has been educating ski patrollers and other search and rescue personnel since 1957, making it the oldest and most experienced provider of avalanche education for professionals in the U.S. Recently, NSP has expanded its program, offering avalanche education for general recreationists as well.

All NSP avalanche courses meet or exceed curriculum recommendations established for each course by the American Avalanche Association. Course content is frequently updated to incorporate the latest science-based knowledge, skills, and techniques. All avalanche education courses are taught by NSP-certified avalanche instructors who have undergone rigorous training and evaluation of technical knowledge and teaching skill.

Introduction to Avalanche Safety and Rescue

This course introduces fundamental principles of avalanche hazard, safety and rescue. It is designed for interested ski patrollers, members of mountain search and rescue groups, and others who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain. It qualifies as an NSP senior patroller elective, but it does not meet Level 1 avalanche course standards and does not qualify as a prerequisite for enrollment in Level 2 avalanche courses.

The organized rescue portion of this course may be suitable for presentation to non-patrol resort personnel who may become involved in a support capacity in avalanche rescue scenarios. It is also suitable for personnel of agencies who may have jurisdictional involvement in an avalanche rescue, but who would not physically work in the field. Optional field exercises are available.

Prerequisite: None

Time commitment: Minimum of eight hours classroom instruction

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

 Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel

This is an enhanced Level 1 avalanche course with supplemental organized avalanche rescue content for ski patrollers and personnel of other organizations or agencies who may engage in avalanche search and rescue operations.

Prerequisite: Ability to travel through steep, ungroomed terrain under any weather or snowpack conditions

Time commitment: Minimum of 28 hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel

This is an enhanced Level 2 course for ski patrollers or personnel of other organizations or agencies engaged in avalanche search and rescue who want to upgrade avalanche safety and rescue skills to a leadership level. It is a prerequisite for NSP avalanche instructor development and for professional-level training offered by other organizations.

This course covers advanced knowledge and techniques for hazard assessment and route selection, introduces avalanche hazard forecasting and mitigation strategies, and develops organized rescue management and leadership, including strategies for travel to an incident site and conducting both an immediate search and extended operations. It also includes incident/rescue documentation and development of avalanche emergency response plans.

Prerequisites: Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel course or refresher within the previous three years; at least one intervening year of experience is highly recommended.

Time Commitment: Minimum of 32 hours instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field.

Fees: Determined locally

Credential: NSP Certificate of Achievement