How to be avalanche aware
If your kids are heading into the
backcountry, they need to understand
the danger posed by avalanches.
Helen Hayes shares some tips on what
to learn and where to learn it.
y children are now old
enough to venture
overseas and are talking
about how they are going
to explore the backcountry
with their mates in Japan, the USA or
Canada and, even though they are
experienced, this has me stressing out. In
the USA, organisations such as the North
West Avalanche Centre (www.nwac.us) offer
education programmes to kids from age 12.
Fortunately, Australian ski resorts are not at
the same level of risk of avalanches as many
overseas resorts, with the early morning
‘booms’ that signify avalanche bombing
never heard on our shores. However,
avalanches can, and do, occur in the
Australian backcountry, and booking your
son, daughter or family into one of these
courses might just save a life.
Mountain Safe at Mt Buller
The Mountain Safe course at Mt Buller is a
new five-hour programme developed for
children and adults alike and will be offered
for the first time this 2016 winter season.
Taught in small groups, the programme will
focus on terrain awareness; introduction to
safety equipment including transceivers,
shovels and probes and how to use them;
strategic shovelling; decision-making
protocols; and patient stabilisation. You
will learn how to identify terrain hazards,
the potential of avalanche slide paths
and what to do if an avalanche happens.
You will also learn about the dangers
of tree wells. The programme, focusing
on basic skills, has been developed
by elite-level mountain guides in North
America, New Zealand and Australia. The
course will run at Mt Buller this season.
Snow Safety at Mount Hotham
Mount Hotham Ski Patrol runs Backcountry
Snow Safety Skills courses that provide an
introduction to the necessary skills and
knowledge required for a safe and enjoyable
backcountry excursion here and overseas.
The courses are coordinated and run by
professional Ski Patrollers with over 25 years’
experience, with participants spending an
evening out in the elements. The course
includes lectures and on-snow workshops.
Hotham has produced an excellent brochure
on everything related to safety in the snow
which is available on its website.
On patrol at Thredbo
and Falls Creek
Thredbo and Falls Creek also offer some
courses conducted by Ski Patrol. Thredbo
has two courses: an Avalanche Awareness
Course and an overnight option. At Falls, Ski
Patrol runs educational and practical sessions
for backcountry skiers, boarders and trekkers.
The four-hour practical Awareness Sessions
cover the basics.
Main Range Backcountry
For serious backcountry adventurers, Main
Range Backcountry conducts the Avalanche
Skills Training (AST) Level 1 and 2 Courses,
developed by the Canadian Avalanche
Association most weekends in July, August
and September in NSW and Victoria, and
also in Queenstown, New Zealand. AST
Level 1 gives an entry-level decision-making
framework with a minimum of seven hours’
theory in the classroom and one day in the
field required. Participants will also learn
how to use the Avaluator™.
Evergreen Outdoor Center
For heavy-duty avalanche training in Japan,
sign up for the Evergreen Avalanche Skills
Training (AST) courses. The Level 1 course
runs for two days and includes seven hours
in the classroom and one full day in the snow.
The one-day Companion Rescue Skills
course is a must as it teaches life-saving
search and rescue techniques – skills that will
stay with your forever.