Avalanche Safety Course

Saturday, Forrest and I had the opportunity to attend an avalanche safety course at the Smelterville Ranger Station. The course was taught by a couple of rangers who are in charge of going out to measure snow conditions for part of the Idaho Panhandle and Western Montana regional avalanche danger forecast. The free course included a morning classroom session and an afternoon field session. What an awesome public service!

Turns out we practically had a private class. Chris & Katie, new friends of ours who have a vacation house in Mullan, were the only other people there! (Free people, FREE class!) Avalanche danger was high and it was raining and gross making the class the place to be (or so we judged).

We talked about the avalanche triangle and what it means when avalanche danger is “high.” We discussed a few cases where it really boiled down to human judgement error. What really got me was the documentary called “A Dozen More Turns” (it can be watched here); it told the story of a group that did so many things right knowing avalanche danger was high and then pushed the limits just a little bit and caused a major slide. I thought, and I think almost all four of us were thinking, that the one little mistake is something we could all do.

Avalanche triangle
Avalanche triangle

After an awesome Pizza Palace lunch, we headed up to Lookout Pass to learn some practical tests for the snow and to do some practice with the avalanche beacons.

We need a couple of these…

In the end, we both learned a lot. I’m really glad we went; hopefully this will help us be safer in snow adventures in the future.

Be safe…don’t start stuff like this… Yikes.

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