Get Avalanche Educated!
As people who spend time in the outdoors, we understand that the natural environment can deliver a different set of hazards then the urban environment does. We also all know that learning about these hazards gives us the power to avoid them, and with winter coming, this will help us manage our time outdoors so we can maximize the fun and minimize the possibility of something bad happening.
Avalanches are a big hazard of winter mountain travel. They do occur in the Northeast and can have very severe consequences. In fact, there have been 23 avalanche fatalities in the Northeast states since 1950, and every year there are numerous people who are caught in an avalanche. Those who do find themselves caught in an avalanche aren’t just limited to ‘extreme skiers’, but anyone who spends time in snow-covered mountains including skiers, climbers, hikers, and snowmobilers.
Over the past few years, there has been a big push to extend avalanche education to as many people as possible. Knowledge is power, and if you are a person who spends time in snow-covered mountains, this is a topic you should know about. While we currently may not be able to, or are comfortable, spending a weekend in the company of others learning about avalanches, there are fortunately a number of online learning opportunities, many of which are free.
The Utah-based Know Before You Go organization, KBYG, has been a frontrunner in providing wonderful material for Avalanche Awareness. They recently started offering a free 1-hour online Avalanche Awareness program which can be found at https://learn.kbyg.org/. If you enjoyed that material and want to learn more, KBYG also offers a number of follow-up courses providing more in- depth knowledge of the topics covered in the Avalanche Awareness program.
The outdoor safety equipment manufacturer Backcountry Access, BCA, also offers some free online learning videos covering avalanche avoidance and avalanche rescue skills. Those can be found at https://backcountryaccess.com/en-us/learn-avalanche-safety/avalanche-avoidance and at https://backcountryaccess.com/en-us/learn-avalanche-safety/avalanche-rescue.
The American Avalanche Institute, AAI, a leader in avalanche education, also offers an online avalanche fundamentals course for a small fee. Besides going over avalanche safety, they also incorporate topics related to safe winter backcountry trip planning and travel.
The Northeast has its own avalanche center, the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. Here you will find avalanche forecasts for the Presidential Mountains as well as a lot of material about avalanches and information related to avalanches. The National Avalanche Center can be found at https://avalanche.org/, they have links to all the various avalanche centers in the US as well acting as a clearing house for avalanche information in the US.
If online learning isn’t your thing, you can still take an in-person course offered by many of the fine guiding companies in New England. A list of those can be found at the AIARE site. There are also some great books that cover avalanche education with Bruce Tremper’s Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Avalanche Essentials: A Step-by-Step System for Safety and Survival being some of the most highly rated.
An avalanche doesn’t care if you are a skier, hiker, climber or snowmobiler. It can seriously hurt you or even kill you. Taking one hour of your time to learn a bit about this hazard can mean the difference between a day of fun in the snow, or a day going very badly. So, take that time and get avalanche educated. Regardless of your preferred learning method, there are ways for you to learn about avalanche hazards.