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Avalanche Awareness 101

People often associate avalanches with backcountry skiers and snowmobilers. The reality is, if you are out in the backcountry doing anything, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, you need to be avalanche aware and prepared. You may not be in the alpine where most avalanches are triggered, but you could be in a slide path or near a terrain trap that could cause severe harm. Here’s some pointers in how to kick-start your avalanche education.

Take an Avalanche Skills Course

The first level in Avalanche Skills Training (AST1) will go over how to recognize avalanche danger, how to make decisions that reduce the risk of avalanche danger and how to use your equipment in an avalanche situation. This course is vital in your avalanche education.

Always Wear a Transceiver and Pack a Probe and Shovel

You’re useless if you don’t have the right equipment, and it will be near impossible to find you if your buried without a transceiver. These are items that could save your friend’s lives or your own, so don’t cheap out; buy them and bring them.

Practice using your equipment before you go out, that way it’s familiar.


Stay Up to Date With Local Avalanche Conditions

Canada has an awesome resource, Canadian Avalanche Association, which continually monitors and updates avalanche conditions across multiple ranges. If you live outside Canada, check for your local avalanche conditions. Before you head out, make sure to check for the latest avalanche conditions.

Adventure With Capable People

The people you choose to go with into the backcountry are the ones that will be digging you out if something goes wrong. Team up with people that are avalanche aware and capable. Another plus side to venturing out with experienced people is you can learn a lot from them.

When in Doubt, Hire a Guide, or Don’t Go At All

Sometimes the best option is to just hire a guide. He or she will help you build up your backcountry experience and you’ll still be able to enjoy the backcountry. Perhaps after all your research and risk assessment, the right decision could be to simply not put yourself in that situation and that’s perfectly ok too!

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Avalanche awareness is all about controlling the amount of risk you are exposing yourself to; the more you know the better. Safe adventuring out there folks!

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