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  1. #1
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    What is missing?

    I'm curious to hear everyone's opinion on what is missing or not optimally presented in current avalanche education products and/or opportunities?

    Obviously it varies from provider to provider and nation to nation. That's fine. I'm looking for opinion not assessment. grcs.

    I'm editing this post to add general responses...

    Stuff that is not much taught but should be.

    Leadership

    I'm adding Teamwork though nobody has directly mentioned it

    Stuff that is there, but maybe should be a higher priority?

    Decision making. This is a huge subject and folk have commented on numerous aspects of it.

    Behavioral issues. While part of decision making this is a subject in its own right.

    Communication. Same as above.

    Terrain Assessment. Another big category that Halstead breaks down a bit in his post below.

    Visual and kinesthetic snowpack cues


    Stuff that is a high priority, but maybe should be lower?
    Snowpits and snowpack analysis. There is always lively discussion around this issue and I'm sure some feel it does not belong in this category.

    How's the progression of content from beginner courses to more advanced?

    There seems to be a gap between L1 and L2 courses where people are dying for input and feedback, but not getting it
    Last edited by covert; 07-17-2017 at 03:31 PM.

  2. #2
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    decision making. Now thats obviously vary broad, so ill give an example.

    Cat skiing. guides dig multiple pits. talk to group (im running lead or tail gunner every run). tell us where to hit it. I scan the line, disagree due to a potential terrain trap, and we have a discussion about it. talk back and forth, i decide im going to take my line (a little more cautious but still fun) and am the first to drop in.

    3-4 turns in the whole slope rips. bc of where I am, I am able to bail uphill and only get burried knee deep. Had I taken the middle line as first told, or if I wasnt the first to go......well who the hell knows. we can't predict shit with the mtns.

    but so much focus on shoveling, probes, technique, I think the mental game and group think and go pro syndrome play a big factor as well.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by covert View Post
    ....
    How's the progression of content from beginner courses to more advanced?...
    Not really qualified to answer the other questions as a freshly minted AIARE 1 after this year (and only about 30-40 days in the BC total.)

    But I'm struggling a bit with what to do after AIARE 1. Higher level courses seem designed more for pros or a bit too big of a time/money investment it seems. The 1 day refreseher courses I see tend to cover material at a very basic level that isn't helpful to me.

    A 1 or 2 day more advanced course would be a nice inbetween. Stuff like practicing multiple-burial scenarios (discussed but not practiced in my AAIRE 1), refining snowpit / snow analysis technique, terrain evaluation work, etc.

    Realistically this year my continuing education will probably be listening to the Slide podcast, reading incident reports to understand decision making, and maybe hiring a good guide (AAIRE cert instructor) for a day or two in order to pick his brain and ski.

  4. #4
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    I'd like to see more focus on regional terrain. Less case studies from far away places or videos (Know before you go comes to mind) of Travis Rice doing corked 1440s over glacial crevasses on a 4000' maritime line in Alaska. I want to spend time discussing terrain that is similar to what you could see at Berthoud or RMNP.

    FTR: Aiare 1, Friends of BP Intro/refreshers, Steep Life.
    Last edited by hatchgreenchile; 07-11-2017 at 04:47 PM.

  5. #5
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    I hadn't thought of using pits in that matter but it makes a lot of sense.

    You also bring up a point that I wish AIARE would give some more space to and equip people to talk about: personal abilities / fitness / readiness. This is a hard thing in a group to talk about because there is so much ego involved. Having some formal tools to organize that discussion would be great.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by doebedoe View Post

    But I'm struggling a bit with what to do after AIARE 1. Higher level courses seem designed more for pros or a bit too big of a time/money investment it seems. The 1 day refreseher courses I see tend to cover material at a very basic level that isn't helpful to me.

    A 1 or 2 day more advanced course would be a nice inbetween. Stuff like practicing multiple-burial scenarios (discussed but not practiced in my AAIRE 1), refining snowpit / snow analysis technique, terrain evaluation work, etc.

    Realistically this year my continuing education will probably be listening to the Slide podcast, reading incident reports to understand decision making, and maybe hiring a good guide (AAIRE cert instructor) for a day or two in order to pick his brain and ski.
    Someone in the know tell me if I'm wrong, but starting next year you should be able to take a pro level 2 or a rec-based level 2. Two tracks for different purposes, which should be a great improvement...

    And skiing with a guide/instructor and picking their brain might be better than any class you could take.

    As for the OP, I would have said the 2 track system would be an improvement, but it sounds like that's already happening. Otherwise, more case study analysis especially in the area of decision making prior to incidents.

  7. #7
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    You know I feel strongly about this:

    Read case studies (Snowy Torrents, UAC reports, TAR articles, etc) and discuss them amongst your ski crowd BEFORE you read the assessment. The more we do this in our rec classes, the more subtleties of decision-making come out.

    Have scenarios with open-ended answers that make the students discuss WHY they chose a particular option, then have instructors chime in with deeper amplifications.

  8. #8
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    there are allot of skiers with avalanche education with little experience in the mountains. I think mountain travel is an important skill to learn. I will go along with what cmcrafo said. communication is important. I am not sure what is taught presently in classes.
    off your knees Louie

  9. #9
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    Courses are a business, structured around what customers who have no idea what they need, think they need. From what I see, the fundamental problem with current efforts to better prepare individuals for safe backcountry skiing, is:
    1. Too much focus on snowpack analysis (because it fits easily into the class format).
    2. Insufficient development of terrain assessment skills (because it's difficult to teach and takes a long time).
    3. Short courses that are necessarily superficial, rather than the long term mentoring that is actually required.
    4. Not addressing fundamental behavioural issues (because instructors aren't trained in it, it's difficult, takes forever, and customers aren't asking for it).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by kootenayskier View Post
    Courses are a business, structured around what customers who have no idea what they need, think they need. From what I see, the fundamental problem with current efforts to better prepare individuals for safe backcountry skiing, is:
    1. Too much focus on snowpack analysis (because it fits easily into the class format).
    2. Insufficient development of terrain assessment skills (because it's difficult to teach and takes a long time).
    3. Short courses that are necessarily superficial, rather than the long term mentoring that is actually required.
    4. Not addressing fundamental behavioural issues (because instructors aren't trained in it, it's difficult, takes forever, and customers aren't asking for it).
    What he said.

    Especially #1
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by kootenayskier View Post
    Courses are a business, structured around what customers who have no idea what they need, think they need. From what I see, the fundamental problem with current efforts to better prepare individuals for safe backcountry skiing, is:
    1. Too much focus on snowpack analysis (because it fits easily into the class format).
    2. Insufficient development of terrain assessment skills (because it's difficult to teach and takes a long time).
    3. Short courses that are necessarily superficial, rather than the long term mentoring that is actually required.
    4. Not addressing fundamental behavioural issues (because instructors aren't trained in it, it's difficult, takes forever, and customers aren't asking for it).
    I'd be interested in short courses focusing on #2 or #4 or even #1. 1 day or 1.5 courses focused on a specific subject (say, a weeknight lecture or two followed by a field day). Take something once a season, every season. Not willing to pay in time or money for a full course with a not great ratio of new information to already learned information. I think there are other people out there who know they don't know everything, know they need to learn more, but find the current course structures a bad investment. don't see how separating "pro" for "rec" helps this because a ski guide/mountain guide has similar needs to many human powered or snowmobile BC people whereas a ski patroller or commercial heli ski operation may not.

  12. #12
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    I'd like to see more emphasis on the social and psychological barriers to communication. Not just saying "communicate openly, think about human factors, beware expert halo etc." but looking at how that works in an actual group. There's a lot of social "friction" that inhibits open communication. E.g. how should a less experienced skier raise a concern? How does a group leader bring in other inputs in a way that's not threatening? What if people disagree? How do you avoid groupthink? And give people concrete tools (e.g. "rather than asking the group for input, ask each individual person by name") and do some practice and modeling as part of the class.

  13. #13
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    Agree w/ teledad giving people more exact tools to work through the communication issues.

    One thing I struggle with: when there is disagreement, how do we weigh various opinions based on the quality of evidence and reasoning that underlies them? How much does the quality of evidence / thinking matter vs the comfort of all people? While everyone should have a say, and everyone has an absolute veto, I don't believe all-opinions-are-equal in the bc.

  14. #14
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    While everyone should have a say, and everyone has an absolute veto, I don't believe all-opinions-are-equal in the bc.[/QUOTE]

    I like this ^^.

    Sometimes (unfortunately OFTEN times) something doesnt feel right. something just feels off. whether about the car ride there, the hike up, the snow, the group whatever. i know you guys all know the feeling im talking about, but even as I write this, its hard to put into words. But almost everytime something does go wrong, someone had an inclination of it being off.

    learn to when to say, yea man, snow pack looks good, forecast looks good, hike was good, but fuck it let's bail on this line, something doesnt feel right. there are always more days and more lines when you set limits, not always another day when you push them.

  15. #15
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    #4 in kootenayskiers excellent post got me to thinking about group dynamics, which got me to thinking about leadership training. I was in wildland fire for a long time, and after a few disasters starting in the 90s the wildfire agencies started working on developing leadership training.

    Avys have some things in common with wildland fire. The fire triangle - fuels, weather, terrain - kind of replicates for avys; snow, weather, and terrain determine avy potential. The wildland firefighters' safety mantra - LCES (Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Areas) - can be usefully applied to travel in avy terrain. Leadership (both downward and upward) and group dynamics are crucial in groups traveling in avy terrain.

    So I think avy instructors should be required to undergo training in something along the lines of wildland firefighters and similar groups go through.

    So I dug up this as an example of the sort of training that wf firefighters get. There are a lot of interesting parallels - food for thought:
    https://training.nwcg.gov/pre-course...eading_PWP.pdf
    山、川、森林、砂漠、海、空

  16. #16
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    These are some interesting questions. I thought I’d take a few days to think on them.

    1) “Stuff” that is not taught much but should be?
    I think that more should be taught that allows students to better understand visual clues to snow stability/instability. This “skill” take years to acquire (i.e., lots of field time in a lot of different conditions and different snowpack’s). But, there is a really great book on this subject that I highly recommend = Secrets of the Snow: visual clues to avalanche and ski conditions, by Edward R. LaChapelle. Reading this book alone will help a lot with understanding what’s happening with the snow around you. When I first read the book, I kept saying to myself, “Boy that took me awhile to learn why that happens….” LaChapelle simply spelled things out of why and how things happen in the snow. I wish more avalanche schools would use his book.

    2) “Stuff” that is there, but maybe should be higher priority?
    I think, more needs to be taught about terrain. Mainly about complex terrain, terrain traps recognition, picking out trigger points in slopes, understanding “small” dangerous slopes, etc.. The avalanche education system has spent a lot of time on snowpack, weather and human factors lately, but a lot of times folks still don’t realize they are in or below avalanche terrain.

    Folks also need to better understand the consequences of the terrain that they want to so badly ski. Terrain matched to the current conditions that is the key to safety in the backcountry.

    3) “Stuff” that is a high priority, but should be lower?
    I think there is too much placed on snowpits in level 1 course’s with so-called-stability tests. I see a lot of students digging snowpits for the wrong reasons (i.e., their looking for approval in their snowpit to ski some slope). Students need to understand that they should be looking for the 5 red flags/lemons in their hasty snowpits, not that they got some ECT6 test result.

    A lot of folks will be surprised that I’m saying this, since I used to sell snowpit field books and that I really do believe in; “If you don’t dig, you don’t know.” Students need to learn to “feel” the snow under their eyes, skis and ski poles first, before they pull out their shovels. This gets back to “visual clues” (i.e., as LaChapelle put it “Kinesthetic Evidence” = how your skis feel). I still dig a lot of snowpits but I do so to confirm what I’m suspecting from my other observations first.

    4) How’s the progression of content from beginner courses to more advanced courses?
    Well, I think the new education system will break things down better. Avy Awareness/Understanding, Avalanche rescue skills, Level 1 and Level 2 is a great progression.

    But, the really important thing is getting in real field time between Level 1 & 2. There is no sense taking the two courses back-to-back. Get out there and get some real field time. Just because someone says they have done Levels 1 & 2 or 3 doesn’t mean much, unless they have paid their dues with a lot of field time.
    "True love is much easier to find with a helicopter"

  17. #17
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    what is great about skiing?

    coming home to you and yours.

    how we love to complicate things..

    33 deg, in the trees, unless..

  18. #18
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    There has been a shift away from snowpack analysis and a move to use of canned decision aids in western canada at least in the recreational levels. The "avulator" is an interesting tool that provides conservative "choices" for inexperienced people in avy terrain. It is reliant on other peoples information and having terrain mapping done for the area... of course that implies that the user of the info knows where they are.

    The things that are missing cannot be taught, (un)common sense, situational awareness, and analytical thinking.
    Then when you add a good heap of go pro and general ignorance all you are left with is luck. Especially when the peer group is already sketchy on avi safety.

    Recognizing and managing terrain comes with experience, and exposure to risk that is understood and critically considered. This can be taught to a point in courses but then it is up to the individual and the more experienced folks to pass knowledge on. Of course if you are a bro brah go pro dip shit finding touring partners that you can learn from could be tough.
    I don't work and I don't save, desperate women pay my way.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the responses so far. Conveniently, I agree with most of them and am still trying to push things in that direction

    Hacksaw's comments on terrain assessment are a bit of an eye opener for me. In retrospect, it is obvious that it's a difficult skill to teach and often requires years of practice to develop, but that is no excuse for not trying harder to facilitate skill acquisition.

    This has also given me some good ideas on ways to diversify the kinds of avalanche education that are available. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to implement some of those ideas this winter.

    Keep it coming.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    ... But, there is a really great book on this subject that I highly recommend = Secrets of the Snow: visual clues to avalanche and ski conditions, by Edward R. LaChapelle. Reading this book alone will help a lot with understanding what’s happening with the snow around you. When I first read the book, I kept saying to myself, “Boy that took me awhile to learn why that happens….” LaChapelle simply spelled things out of why and how things happen in the snow. I wish more avalanche schools would use his book.....
    Thank you for this. I can only re-read Staying Alive so many times before it makes me fall asleep instantly. Recommendations like this are really great for those of us who don't have years in the bc yet, but want to keep learning. Plus you can buy used copies for ~$5 on amazon.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by covert View Post
    Thanks for the responses so far. Conveniently, I agree with most of them and am still trying to push things in that direction

    Hacksaw's comments on terrain assessment are a bit of an eye opener for me. In retrospect, it is obvious that it's a difficult skill to teach and often requires years of practice to develop, but that is no excuse for not trying harder to facilitate skill acquisition.

    This has also given me some good ideas on ways to diversify the kinds of avalanche education that are available. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to implement some of those ideas this winter.

    Keep it coming.
    You have a plan for the winter yet? I could maybe give you a few avy courses in the Tetons, but you'd have to work with me. Ha.

  22. #22
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    Agree with Hacksaw on the general idea of more terrain evaluation and route finding and understanding risk mitigation versus so much pit digging, snow crystal analysis, etc. The education in the past has included too much technical nomenclature detail and people come out able to recite these details in the formal pit profile and notation for sheer quality, fracture characteristics etc but without any real feel for what/where/when of likely triggering avalanches. Of course the best teacher is experience and poking around skiing, probing, and yes digging pits, but that takes a lot of time so its hard to impart that knowledge.

    I think more interactive e -tools could be useful in the future to help provide some pretend experiences but in the short term perhaps more scenario games with pictures, descriptions and imaginary partners. Dungeons and Dragons for Avalanches.
    Last edited by Kinnikinnick; 07-17-2017 at 07:09 PM.
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    Keystone is fucking lame. But, deadly.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by doebedoe View Post
    Thank you for this. I can only re-read Staying Alive so many times before it makes me fall asleep instantly. Recommendations like this are really great for those of us who don't have years in the bc yet, but want to keep learning. Plus you can buy used copies for ~$5 on amazon.
    You should subscribe to The Avalanche Review if you don't already. It's the best bang for the buck in terms of avy continuing ed that you will find anywhere.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by homemadesalsa View Post
    You have a plan for the winter yet? I could maybe give you a few avy courses in the Tetons, but you'd have to work with me. Ha.
    I have many plans but they are no more than that. I'd be happy to be your minion if I can figure out a way to stay in Merica. That's Plan A.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by doebedoe View Post
    Thank you for this. I can only re-read Staying Alive so many times before it makes me fall asleep instantly. Recommendations like this are really great for those of us who don't have years in the bc yet, but want to keep learning. Plus you can buy used copies for ~$5 on amazon.
    $5 what a great deal!!!
    "True love is much easier to find with a helicopter"

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