FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I take one of your courses?
- If you are at least 16 years old you can take a field based course with us (this is what our insurance stipulates) Participants under 18 will require the signature of a guardian on all course paperwork.
- Most course participants travel in the backcountry with skis & splitboards, or snowmobiles and snowbikes for motorized courses. If you travel over snow via snowshoes or nordic equipment please email us to discuss options. We’re committed to getting quality education out to any and all winter backcountry users.
- We don’t expect you to arrive at an introductory avalanche course with a wealth of backcountry experience. However, having working knowledge and experience with the equipment that you will be using, prior to the course, is important to maximize our limited time in the field. Participants should use and test their equipment on the ski area or trail before the course.
- Avalanche education courses differ substantially from a guided trip. Do not show up to a field day expecting to rack up epic amounts of vertical feet in ascents and descents. Courses prioritize education, group communication and building skills, over riding.
- The minimum skiing/splitboarding skill level for a Level 1 course is linking parallel turns proficiently on “Blue Square” intermediate ski runs at the ski area. Participants should also be able to uphill tour a few miles each day in the field. Motorized users should be familiar with side-hilling, be comfortable going off groomed trails, and have experience getting sleds un-stuck.
Which course should I sign up for?
Avalanche Awareness | Is a short 1-3hr. classroom session. These lectures and and our “Know Before You Go” presentations are open to all ages. These are designed to expose people to what gear they need to have, and what education they need to seek out to safely step outside of the ski area boundary, or hit the trail in the backcountry. An awareness course does not convey enough information to count as a stand-alone training. We encourage all participants at these lectures aspiring or currently traveling in the backcountry to sign up for a Level 1 Course.
Level 1 Course | Is a 24 hours course, minimum 60% in the field. The focus is to provide the foundation to safe backcountry travel. Pre-trip planning, making key weather and snowpack observations, recognition of avalanche terrain and basic companion rescue are just some of the topics covered in this course.
Avalanche Rescue | Is an 8 hour course with a minimum of 5 hours in the field. Scenario driven drills with transceivers, probing and strategic digging help participants gain familiarity with the equipment and skills necessary to perform an efficient and effective avalanche rescue. We highly recommend receiving wilderness first aid training in addition to this course.
Level 1 Refresher | Is a 12 hour class (3 hour classroom, 8 hours field). This class is for a student who has previously taken a Level 1 but would like re-sharpen their skills and refresh their knowledge. Participants receive the most up to date information on snow stability tests, group dynamics, snowpack and weather resources, and new thinking on terrain selection and snowpack evaluation.
Level 2 Course | Is a 24 hour course, with a minimum 60% field time. The Level 2 Course is for someone who has been traveling in the backcountry for a few years and is looking to deepen their understanding of traveling safely in the winter environment. Prerequisites include a Level 1 Course and an Avalanche Rescue Course. Participants must be prepared and fit enough to travel during daylight hours in winter backcountry terrain in for three consecutive days.
Here is a link to The American Avalanche Association (AAA) training progression where you can find information on both Recreational and Professional training.
If I don’t have all the gear, where can I get it?
If you don’t have backcountry touring gear, you can rent it.
My avalanche beacon is pretty old. Is that OK? Do I need a newer one?
Each participant on an avalanche course should have a 3 antennae digital avalanche beacon that is less than 5 years old. If you have an old analogue beacon, then it really needs to be retired. Here’s an article about beacons and when to retire them.
What is included in a Missoula Avalanche course?
- Professional instruction
- Course workbooks
- Classroom and field instruction
- Lift tickets (unless otherwise noted), if the course is operating out of a ski area
What is not included in an Missoula Avalanche course?
- Transportation to and from the venue
- Personal gear
- Avalanche rescue gear
- Food (unless otherwise noted)
How likely is it that my course will run? What happens if it’s canceled by Missoula Avalanche?
We need a minimum number to run a course, but our courses book up quickly and usually fill to capacity. As long as our courses are in compliance with state and federal Covid-19 guidelines we plan on running courses. We do have extreme weather parameters that dictate when we feel it is safe to run a course, and we have had to cancel courses due to dangerously high winds or -20 to -30 degree sub-arctic temperatures. Should Missoula Avalanche need to cancel a course, we will do our best to reschedule you in a different course or we will refund your money. We highly recommend exploring trip insurance for courses, especially in light of the current pandemic. Go to https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/ for more information. For 2021 we are offering a $50 tuition refund with proof of trip insurance purchase.