Avalanche Level 2: Analyzing Snow Stability And Avalanche Hazard

The level 2 course is a 4-day program that provides backcountry leaders the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge and decision making skills. This course also includes the introductory and prerequisite components for the professional progression: the level 3 certificate.

The Level 2 builds from the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the level one and adds to it the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Advance understanding of avalanche terrain, particularly from the perspective of stability analysis.
  2. Discuss how the snowpack develops and metamorphoses over time; and discuss the factors that contribute to spatial variability.
  3. Learn standard observation guidelines and recording formats for factors that influence or indicate snow stability. SWAG MODULE.
  4. Advance understanding of avalanche release and triggering mechanisms.
  5. Introduce a snow stability analysis and forecasting framework.
  6. Improve companion rescue skills including multiple and deep burials.

Instructional Sessions (40 hours including both class and field) include:

  • Level 1 Review
  • Energy balance, the mountain snowpack and metamorphism
  • Faceting; near surface and near crust faceting
  • Formation of surface hoar and persistent weak layers
  • Skier Triggering: theory and observations
  • International and national snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording guidelines (SWAG).
    • Weather; interpreting forecasts, recording and observation techniques
    • Snow profile techniques and bonding tests
    • Avalanche observations and recording techniques
    • Stability analysis checklist: reviewing critical factors
    • Stability ratings
    • Daily stability forecasts and analysis
  • Trip Planning and hazard forecasting for avalanche terrain.
    • The avalanche danger ratings
    • Terrain analysis using maps/photos
    • Forecasting stability and variability
  • Terrain selection and route finding
    • Group management and hazard management
    • Decision making
    • Human factors
  • Information gathering
    • Site selection and relevancy
    • Spatial variability
    • Slope tests
  • Companion Rescue
    • Level 1 techniques review
    • Multiple burial
    • Shovel techniques

Student Prerequisites:

Students must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain. An AIARE Level 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent training/experience is required. A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is recommended before taking the Level 2 course.

Required equipment for all avalanche courses: Equipment List

Combined courses:

Avalanche Awareness & Standard First Aid– This 8-hour introductory course combines avalanche awareness training and basic first aid; it is ideal for the novice, high school aged, or aspiring back country traveler. Upon completion, participants receive a certificate of completion foe the avalanche portion, and basic first aid certification.

Avalanche I and Wilderness First Aid– This 24-hour course combines AIARE Level 1 avalanche training and SOLO Wilderness First Aid. In addition to understanding avalanche hazard management, it will train participants in basic backcountry medicine skills. Students will learn to manage patients for extended periods should someone get hurt or become ill when help is not readily available. Practical exercises will combine avalanche rescue and patient care. This is an excellent course for aspiring professionals or recreational backcountry users. Certifications upon completion include: Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) Wilderness First Aid and American Heart Association (AHA) Adult/Child CPR, and a Level 1 Avalanche Certificate.