Avalanche – Level 1

Preparation for Travel in Avalanche Terrain

The JHOLI Level 1 is a 4-Day, 30-Hour introduction to travel in avalanche terrain and avalanche hazard management.
The course is expected to:
  1. Describe how, when and why avalanches occur.
  2. Identify and describe avalanche terrain in the field
  3. Describe and implement a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain.
  4. Have had an opportunity to practice companion rescue with feedback and understand the framework and importance for continued practice of companion rescue skills. 

Students can expect to learn to prepare for and carry out a backcountry trip in and around avalanche terrain, introduced to risk management tools and mentored in basic decision making while in the field and an introduction and practice of rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person.

A final debrief includes a knowledge quiz to test student comprehension and to give feedback to instructors on instructional tools. Students are encouraged and counseled on how to apply the skills learned and told that no course can fully guarantee safety, either during or after course completion. A link is made to a future JHOLI Avalanche Level 2 course.

Student Prerequisites

Must be capable of traveling to, in and around avalanche terrain. Physically fit enough to carry a 20 lbs. pack, while skiing uphill and downhill in variable snow and weather conditions. It is strongly recommended having a WFA or higher medical training, taken a avalanche awareness or similar course, some previous experience traveling in backcountry terrain and being familiar with your travel and safety equipment.

Equipment List

Required equipment for all Avalanche Courses is provided on our Equipment List page.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Plan and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain.
  • Recognize avalanche terrain.
  • Describe a basic framework for making decisions in avalanche terrain.
  • Learn and apply effective companion rescue.

Instructional Sessions

40 Hours including both Class and Field Instruction

Introduction to the Avalanche Phenomena

  • Types of characteristics of avalanches
  • Avalanche motion
  • Size classification

Trip Planning and Preparation

  • Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
  • Route finding and travel techniques
  • Decision-making and Human Factors

Mountain snowpack: An Introduction to metamorphism and layering

  • Observations and Information Gathering
  • Field observation techniques
  • Snowpack tests: rutschblock, compression test
  • Avalanche danger factors or “Red Flags”
  • Observation checklist
  • Avalanche danger scale