Most serious skiers have at least one magical tale of an experience involving some off-piste adventures. Whether on a full blown backcountry adventure or just searching for powder stashes in the ungroomed areas of your local resort, few experiences in skiing come close to the exhilaration of seemingly endless pow slashes or fluffy tree runs. However, any time you journey into the backcountry you drastically increase your risk of serious injuries or death. Along with a lack of ski patrol, riders are faced with constantly changing conditions, possible obstacles, tree wells, and of course avalanches.
Avalanches are one of the most dangerous aspects of backcountry skiing and claim lives every year. As resorts begin opening new areas and allowing their patrons increased freedom in ungroomed areas, the risk of inbounds avalanches increases. It is therefore imperative that all skiers and snowboarders have some knowledge of avalanches to truly be safe on the snow. Thankfully, the fine folks at the Canadian Avalanche Center, Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization, have put together an in-depth online avalanche safety course.
The detailed course covers avalanche formation, terrain, pre-trip planning, reducing risk in the field, rescue, avalanche incident reporting, and more. It includes photos for reference, and “what if?” scenarios. The course represents an excellent compilation of information that could one day save your life. I highly recommend everyone and anyone who enjoys skiing take an hour out of their day to familiarize themselves with the information.
The online avalanche course can be found here: http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course
Remember that this online course, while incredibly valuable, is no substitute for experience. Never venture into the backcountry unless armed with the proper knowledge, equipment, and partners.