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Avalanche Awareness for Skiers

This course will give you a good foundation in understanding the snow pack and will teach you how to avoid avalanche prone slopes and enable you to become a safer and more independent off piste skier.

Level 2 Instruction & Coaching

2 days, 2 nights

Ratio: 6:1

Prerequisites: Introduction to Off-Piste Skiing Or equivalent

Price: £535*

* Fully inclusive price

The course offers comprehensive instruction in all the techniques of ski-touring as well as focussing on off-piste skiing skills. The course also includes certification in Avalanche training level 1 from the Swiss Mountain Training Organisation and The Association of Swiss Mountain Guides (SBV/ASGM).

During the weekend you will look at snow structure, the process of change within it and by examining the snow, develop recognition of snow pack stability and therefore confidence in ascertaining potential avalanche risk. This will help you start to make informed decisions on safe travel in potential avalanche risk terrain, route choice and avoidance of threatened areas.

Course Highlights

  • Gain a solid foundation in avalanche awareness and avoidance
  • Perfect for skiers and snow boarders who venture off piste
  • Flexible and robust course with regard to weather and snow conditions
  • Highly educational course, giving a good balance of classroom sessions and practical sessions on the mountain
  • The understanding of how to find the best snow to ski in the available conditions
  • Leysin based in the Grand Chalet, very comfortable 3 star accommodation

The course is based at the hotel Le Grand Chalet in Leysin. Leysin has a lot to offer in terms of off-piste skiing and ski touring. This gives us access to many slope aspects and altitudes. Leysin also has a fantastic transceiver training centre.

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Is This Course For Me?

Ski ability required: Strong piste skier with good parallel turns on-piste and effective turns off-piste would be desirable

What The Course Covers
  • The avalanche phenomenon
  • How the weather and conditions both past and present influences the snowpack
  • Analysing and documenting the snow pack by digging snow pits
  • Assessing the snowpack for stability
  • How to create an overview of the current avalanche risk and be able to make an avalanche forecast
  • Route finding in avalanche terrain whilst on skis or snowboards, managing the risk.
  • Develop a greater situational awareness in the field so that you better informed decisions on safe snow, travel and route finding.
  • Use of Avalanche transceivers for search and retrieval
  • Use of avalanche probes and shovels
  • Self-rescue systems and the survival aspect of being in an avalanche situation
Sample Programme

7pm Friday - Introductory Meeting

Here we will define the aims and objectives of the course, review the current weather and avalanche risk and ensure that everyone has the correct equipment. It is important that we understand the structure of the snowpack and so we will also use this time to focus on the history of the winter storm cycles and the affects that this has had on snow stability.

Day 1 Saturday
The emphasis of the morning is to understand the avalanche phenomena. We start with a classroom session covering snow science and the mechanisms that trigger avalanches.
We then venture outdoors to use a snow pit (profile) as a tool to enhance our understanding of snow science so that we can further develop our understanding of snow science. We will use these finding in conjunction with the current weather and avalanche information which we reviewed on Friday evening to ascertain the current avalanche risk.

A training session on avalanche rescue protocol and the use of transceivers, probes and shovels is done at the end of the day.

During the evening we will make an avalanche forecast using the data from the snow pit analysis and weather forecast. We will also consider potential itineraries for the next day and discuss the merits of these in terms of safety and quality of snow for skiing. Being in the right place is incredibly important in avalanche terrain and a defensive approach is encouraged.

Day 2 Sunday
We should now have a good understanding of the snowpack and how it affects its stability. The focus of this day will be avalanche avoidance. This is done by assessing the stability of the slopes so we can use good judgement to ensure that a suitably safe route is taken. We will establish a structure on which to base our risk assessment ensuring that we don’t overlook any important factors which could contribute to being caught in an avalanche.

We will start the day by making an initial risk assessment of the avalanche danger compared to our avalanche forecast.
Route choice is very important, so we will also discuss these options in the field. Managing the group in terms of spacing (distance apart) is an important safety consideration, so you will have the opportunity of “leading” the group under the close direction of the guide.

The course debrief will be at 5pm.

Equipment

We can provide all equipment, but please feel free to bring your own if you have any. We will be using:

  • Crystal Screen
  • Loop (magnifying glass -for examining snow crystals)
  • Thermometer
  • Folding ruler (2m)
  • Inclinometer
  • Avalanche field book (for documenting the snow pack)
  • Compass
  • Pencil (HB)
  • Snow saw
  • Snow shovel

*Note that ski hire is not included


If you wish to do some pre-course reading, we highly recommend:

The Avalanche Handbook by David McClung and Peter Schaerer

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper

Course Dates

Please call +44 1539 721561 for availability