I have been dipping my toes into the realm of backcountry snowboarding for a few months now and I am overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and skill that is involved in the activity. Not only is the equipment an investment, but being able to travel safely in the backcountry is a mental and monetary investment as well. A big price tag item on this list of gear is an AIARE (The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Avalanche 1 course. This course teaches the basic understanding of backcountry travel safety and focuses primarily on traveling safely in avalanche territory. Though with a price tag of over $350 it is a bit of a shock to most young people looking to duck the ropes and head out into the untracked powder. I am sure I was not the only one seeking initial information about backcountry safety before taking the financial plunge into a course. Books, youtube, and other internet sources provided good information, but they lack an organized step by step intro into the giant learning chasm that is avalanche safety.
Salomon and Atomic have paired up to make this initial education an organized and CHEAP option to get a basic understanding of the subject before signing up for your first avy course. The program is called the Mountain Academy, a program dedicated to educating the masses on the need for safety and knowledge in the backcountry. Not only is the course $29, all the proceeds go to avalanche centers worldwide to increase the forecasting and research efforts to keep people safe and having fun in the mountains. I signed up for the initial course and have had a great time watching the videos, reading well defined explanations, and viewing several studies of snow science that the course provides. The Mountain Academy also provides tests at the end of each section to insure you have a handle on the subject before moving on. The MA has made it clear that this course is in no way a replacement for taking an AIARE course, but the information provided will keep you from being totally new to the subject when you do decide to take the plunge.
If you are looking for a good ol’ fashioned book to read about traveling in the backcountry check out the Allen and Mike series, the series is a fun read and has plenty of pictures to keep you interested:
I plan to take my Avy 1 course in February and will be sure to blog about my experiences! Safe travels out there! As Allen and Mike say “Live to wimp again!”