Avalanche News for the 2017-18 Winter

Updated U.S. Avalanche Course Progression

As outlined in a previous post, beginning this winter the avalanche course progression for both recreational backcountry skiers and avalanche professionals has been revamped. This shift has been a long time in the making, and represents a lot of work from dedicated folks throughout the avalanche industry and spearheaded by the American Avalanche Association.

New recreational avalanche course progression from the American Avalanche Association

For recreational skiers, there is little change to the Level 1 Course, but the Level 2 curriculum has been significantly updated for this season. It is now purely a recreational-oriented course and has been honed to be more relevant to backcountry skiers or riders who want to maximize their safety while pursuing powder or remote mountain adventures. While snow study will remain an important component of the class, it will be less rigorous and more practical for those who would rather ski than spend their time digging snow profiles. We are super excited about these changes and feel that the course will be less intimidating and more appealing to recreational skiers and riders.

The Level 2 Course is now a 3-day program and has the Level 1 and the new single-day Avalanche Rescue Course as a prerequisite. Since few people will have taken the new Avalanche Rescue Course this year, we’re including it with our Level 2 this season. 

Our courses will continue to follow the curriculum from American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives through avalanche education. We are strong supporters of AIARE and believe that they have made great steps in creating standards for both U.S. avalanche education as well as avalanche course instructor training and qualifications.

While we have a recreational focus here at Sawtooth Mountain Guides, we will also be hosting an AIARE Pro 2 Course this winter. After completing Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue Courses, current or prospective avalanche professionals (ski patrollers, guides, avalanche forecasters) will shift over to the professional avalanche education track. This track consists of the 5-day Pro 1 Course and 6-day Pro 2.

SMG Gets New Avalanche Rescue Gear Fleet

We’ve updated our avalanche rescue fleet this season to top-of-the line Black Diamond/Pieps avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes. We strongly recommend (and require for our programs) a modern, 3-antenna avalanche beacon for all backcountry travelers, and providing this equipment for our guests is an important aspect of our avalanche risk management plan.


New U.S. Avalanche Website

Newly redesigned avalanche.org website – a one-stop-shop for U.S. avalanche info.

Many backcountry skiers and riders may be familiar with avalanche.org, the go-to website for avalanche conditions, accident reports, and educational resources in the U.S. The website overhaul—spearheaded by the American Avalanche Association and the National Avalanche Center and designed/built by SMG co-owner Chris Lundy and previous SMG guide Clark Corey—will provide a greatly improved portal to avalanche information.