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Snowmobile Based Avalanche Awareness & Companion Rescue Clinic - Idaho Falls

Friday, February 1, 2019 - 6:00pm to Saturday, February 2, 2019 - 2:00pm

Since avalanches are the number one cause of snowmobile fatalities in the west, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is presenting this free snowmobile based Avalanche Awareness presentation. This presentation is designed to 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. 

Preregistration is requested: www.reced.idaho.gov select snowmobile courses. Thank you! 

Feb 1st - 6pm at the IDPR Region office in Idaho Falls - Powerpoint presentation - 2 hours

Feb 2nd - 9am at the Bone Road parking lot - plan for 6 - 8 hours in the field

Topics covered:

  • Avalanche types and anatomy
  • Basic slab mechanics


  • Terrain evaluation and route selection
  • Travel protocols & group communication

Snowpack and Weather

  • Mountain snowpack development leading to instability or stability
  • Field observations, tests, and judging instability
  • Use of avalanche & snow pit tools: inclinometer, saw
  • Introduce elementary pit stability tests.
  • Avalanche & snow climates

Decision making - support tools

  • Human factors and the need for systematic decision tools
  • Application & limitations of decision tools
  • Regional Avalanche Centers
  • Avalanche bulletins


  • Companion rescue including scene size up, organization, beacon use, probing, shoveling
  • Recovery of victims not wearing beacons
  • Common mistakes in avalanche rescue
  • Single and multiple beacon search techniques
  • Role of first aid and emergency response in real avalanche rescues

Should I bring my personal transceiver? 

  • Yes, we will have a discussion on the use of transceivers. It will be beneficial to have your transceiver available, especially if it is new to you.


1. GET THE GEAR: Ensure everyone has an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe on their person and knows how to
use them.

2. GET THE TRAINING: Take an avalanche course. 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.

3. GET THE FORECAST: Make a riding plan based on the current avalanche and weather forecast.

4. GET THE PICTURE: If you see recent avalanche activity unstable snow exists. Riding on or underneath slopes is
dangerous. 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. Read nature’s signs. Sometimes the snow shows clear and present danger signs of an 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. GET OUT OF HARM'S WAY: One at a time on all avalanche slopes. Don't go to help your stuck friend. Don’t group up in
runout zones. 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.

6. Utilize your resources.

  • Sawtooth Avalanche Center - (208) 622-8027
  • Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center - (208) 765-7323
  • Payette Avalanche Center  (208) 634-0409

7. 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. 

8. 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

9. 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.


IDPR Region Office at 4279 Commerce Circle, Suite B, Idaho Falls, ID 83401

Contact: Rich Gummersall @ (208) 514-2414 or richard.gummersall@idpr.idaho.gov

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