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Oregon Mountaineering Association

Oregon Mountaineering Association
oma@i-world.net

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Avalanche Education in Oregon

[Terminology] [Schools/Instructors] [Mt Hood Schools]

OMA Avalanche Safety classes

Terminology/Definitions

All courses are referred to as one of the following:

Level 1, Level 2 - These courses should follow the guidelines set by the American Avalanche Association. Expect any course listed as Level 1 or 2 to be at least three days (or an equivalent 24 instructional hours). The course syllabus should also reflect the content specified in the guidelines, although emphasis and teaching methodologies may vary. Note that the CAA Basic curriculum is based on a two day course and is not fully compatible in content with the American Level 1. The CAA curriculum is now based heavily on their new decision-making tool called the Avaluator. This requires terrain ratings, something that is not available in the US.
Awareness - Anything less than a Level 1 is listed as awareness. This could be one hour or one day, or longer. There are many merits to awareness courses in the 1-3 hour range. Awareness courses longer than that leave students in an awkward position since they will not wish to enroll in a Level 1 but will not be adequately prepared for a Level 2.
Academic - Any course offered through a University for academic credit. This is usually one hour per week per credit for about 10 weeks (quarters) or 16 weeks (semesters). To exceed the AAA guidelines for recreational courses, in terms of instructional hours, a course needs to be 3 quarter credits or 2 semester credits. However, academic courses often include work assigned outside class amounting to 2-3 hours per hour of class time.
Other - Any other course, including those using the CAA materials, specialized courses, ski patrol and/or SAR courses, etc.

Instructors and Schools

The following are organizations and individuals who offer recreational avalanche safety programs. Instruction in Oregon is highly variable. Some instructors have broad experience in a wide variety of snowpack conditions, others have very limited field experience or training. We strongly recommend looking at the following:

  • The instructors practical and technical training. This should include some technical background as well as decision-making and leadership backgrounds in varied situations spanning different activities, regions, and snow climates.
  • Their experience, which should include significant time outside of the Oregon cascades in areas with more frequent and subtle avalanche hazards, including persistent buried weaknesses. They should have significant experience (a full continuous season or more) in multiple snow climates and multiple mountain ranges.
  • The familiarity of the instructor with the American Avalanche Association guidelines. Compare their outline or agenda to the posted guidelines. (Do this again afterwards - did you get what you were supposed to?)
  • The location of the class. Actual avalanche terrain should be easily viewed and discussed, including locations of actual incidents.
  • Class size and instructor to student ratio

Avalanche Institute Online Level 1 with true certification

This is the only true certification course available at this time (meaning that the certification represents a complete, thorough, and documented accomplishment Requires successful completion of 10 modules online, including passing scores on quizzes throughout, and 2 field days. Field days may be attended free as refreshers once certified. Modules on advanced topics will be available soon. Feedback so far from our members has been overwhelmingly positive. Field days in Oregon can be arranged through AlpenPro

Jim Frankenfield; jim@mountain-guiding.com;

Groups must have a minimum of 4 to arrange a class. Customized classes available on demand. Qualifications are posted on his website

OMA; oma@i-world.net; Level 1, Climbers Avalanche Safety

Courses were mostly curtailed in 2003 under pressure from the US Forest Service and Mountainsavvy. A discount on the Avalanche Institute course is now offered to members.

University of Oregon Outdoor Program; Awareness

This excellent organization primarily offers a forum for participant initiated trips but does offer evening awareness clinics and beacon practice sessions each fall and winter. Members of their Casey and Allard memorial library may borrow safety equipment at no cost, including avalanche beacons. UofO students are automatically members, others may join as well.

Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Center; Awareness

Offers awareness programs of one or two days many years, programs vary from season to season. These are not free, there is a cost associated which is usually on a par with the private sector Level 1 classes despite student fee subsidization. Their programs are generally at the awareness level.

Listing of Mt Hood Schools

Most avalanche training on Mt Hood is offered through guide services.

Northwest School of Survival

Timberline Mountain Guides

Mountain Savvy - Awareness

This is the only full-scale program with courses throughout the winter. It is more or less the only official government-sanctioned source of education on Mt Hood, apparently by design. It was begun by a Forest Service employee (in direct violation of CFR 2635) and at that time other permits and programs all seemed to be denied or terminated. Offers a two day course using the CAA materials.

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