Avalanche safety and companion rescue training is a critical tool for snowmobile riders in Idaho today, from the extreme sport enthusiast to the casual rider.
Since avalanches are the number one cause of snowmobile fatalities in the west, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is presenting a free snowmobile based Avalanche Awareness and Companion Rescue clinics near you. These practical and popular classes familiarize the winter backcountry enthusiast with hazard recognition and techniques for safe travel in avalanche terrain. In 90 percent of the avalanche accidents the victim or someone in the victim’s party triggers the avalanche. Avalanche conditions are predictable and many accidents can be prevented. If you are planning to ride in avalanche terrain, be sure to check the local avalanche forecast before your trip. We encourage you to take an avalanche awareness course if you ride in avalanche country, and check the United States Forest Service avalanche center forecast website.
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation offers free avalanche safety and companion rescue courses throughout the state of Idaho during the winter months. Take the time to attend an avalanche awareness course and get educated about avalanche safety and companion rescue.
2015/2016 Clinic schedules
These classes are divided into classroom and field exercises and are held regularly during winter months. For information about dates of classes in your region, contact your region coordinator:
Southwest / Southeast Idaho
Make sure you and the people you ride with carry and know how to use the following avalanche equipment:
EIGHT STEPS TO REDUCING YOUR AVALANCHE RISK
1. Get smart! The smart first step is to learn from the avalanche experts. This will take a commitment of time and effort on your part. Divide the task into three parts. First, take an avalanche course. Second, check out the videos on avalanche safety. Third, do some reading and expand on what you have learned.
2. Utilize your resources.
Sawtooth Avalanche Center (208) 622-8027
Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (208) 765-7323
Payette Avalanche Center (208) 634-0409
3. Identify avalanche terrain. Avalanches run repeatedly year after year in the same areas/slopes called avalanche paths. Avalanches most often start on slopes of 30-45 degrees but sometimes start on slopes as shallow as 25 degrees and as steep as 50 degrees. Knowing the slope angle is “rule number one” in recognizing avalanche terrain, for once slope angles reach 30 degrees, you are in potential avalanche terrain regardless of all other factors.
4. Read nature’s signs. Sometimes the snow shows clear and present danger signs of avalanche. Some signs are a fresh avalanche, snow collapsing beneath you or creating noticeable cracks. Some weather signs that the hazard could be worsening fast are heavy snowfall -- more than one inch per hour -- or strong winds creating blowing snow and snow plumes off the ridges.
5. Test the snow. Look for test slopes where you can dig snowpits and perform stress tests. A test slope is a small, steep slope, preferably 30 degrees or steeper, where you will not be in danger of causing an avalanche, but is close to a larger slope that you are concerned about. You can learn all about snowpits while attending Idaho Parks and Recreations Avalanche Awareness course.
6. Travel smart. There are several rules of safe backcountry travel that will help to minimize your avalanche risk. One at a time. Only one person at a time should go onto the slope. Avoid the center. The greatest danger on any steep slope comes when you are in the middle of it. Stay on shallow slopes. You can always travel on avalanche-free slopes up to 25 degrees. Never ride alone.
7. Take your pulse. In other words, check your attitude. It can get you in trouble. Are you so goal-oriented to climb this peak or highmark that slope that you are willing to take unwarranted risk? Do not overlook clear and present danger signs! Do not fall into peer pressure! Are you letting haste or fatigue get you in trouble? To prevent accidents from happening, you must control the human factor in your decision-making. Know your limitations.
8. Be ready for rescue. There are three parts to the rescue equation that will reduce your risk: what equipment to carry, what to do if you are caught, and what to do if a friend is caught.
Rescue gear. A snow shovel, probe and a beacon are the items that everyone who goes into the backcountry should not be without. Do not abandon the search or send searchers out for additional help: You are the buried victim’s best chance for survival.