Heading into the backcountry proposes many risks, including getting caught in an avalanche.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, in the U.S alone, an average of 28 people have died each year in the past 10 winter seasons. About 90 percent of those avalanches were triggered by the victim or someone traveling with the victim.
Though there are major incidents, many people have never experienced life threatening circumstances. Typically, they are either very lucky or knowledgeable in the snow. Gaining knowledge and becoming an “expert” could take years of snow experience and working in it.
Students interested in skiing the backcountry, are given the opportunity to expand their avalanche knowledge by taking beginning avalanche classes through Central Oregon Community College. Though, through taking this class, students are unable to receive their level one certifications.
The class is intended to offer a beginning level knowledge of how to read avalanche terrain and understanding if snow conditions are safe or not. To get the AIARE Avalanche One Certification you must go through a group like the Oregon Ski Guides. Over the course of three days in the backcountry of Bend and Mt. Hood areas, Oregon Ski Guides offer the AIARE certification. This certification allows you to have the option to take a level two certification, which is required to become a ski guide or to become even better at reading avalanche terrain and how to avoid them. These classes have the student or community learner dig snow pits, use the beacons and probes, and go in the field to read terrain they will be skiing.
It may seem like a lot of work but it is your life at stake, or even your friend’s life is at stake, so taking a moment to gain the knowledge is necessary before heading out into the backcountry.
Jacob Smith | The Broadside