Avalanche safety class


A Sawtooth Mountain Guides class with Art on Mores Mountain

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Last night we attended a free class provided by Sawtooth Mountain Guides on avalanche awareness and safety.

Then today, we met at Frontier Point lodge (the Bogus Basin nordic center) for additional hands-on instruction. After a discussion on how avalanche beacons function, we practiced both single-victim and multiple-victim searches in the snow adjacent to the nordic center. The morning started with another discussion on beacons, search patterns, etc.

Then we went outside and practiced using our beacons. Here, Art and I, having already found ours, watch another team search.

Art and John just watch

Then we skied over to the Mores Mountain picnic area, and, well,.... had a picnic.


The night before, Lew had buried 6 beacons for our mock-rescue. Lew and Kirk set the scenario, and our class of 8 took action. Despite some novice mistakes, we recovered all 6 beacons in just over 15 minutes... the statistical threshold of survival. Go Team!

Looking for buried victims
After we dug up all our "victims," we had a discussion about what each of us thought went well, and what went wrong. This was very useful, both to focus on what we each did, and to hear the other perspectives. OK, let's talk about that

Then the class was split in two for instruction in digging test pits. Art and I were in Kirk's group. Here Kirk does density tests while the class looks on.

Kirk shows the class how to perform a density test

We then learned about column tests. Here Kirk shows how he has marked his snow saw for the correct dimensions.

Kirk shows the class the dimensions for a column test

Then it was our turn to practice the techniques. Art used his carpentry skills (Chicks dig skills!) to make a very, very nice column.

Art performas a column test

This was an introductory class with a wide variety of experience amongst the class. For some, it was their first exposure to avalanche safety. I had had avalanche training and had dug pits, etc. Nevertheless, I think we all got a tremendous amount of information, and I would highly recommend this class to anyone who travels the backcountry in winter. I think I would even take it again in a year or two, unless I instead take one of Sawtooth Mountain Guide's more intensive multi-day classes.

Mr. Natural Home | 2006 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski