With too few hours that allow you to get out and enjoy the mountains it is often questioned why bother taking an avalanche course. Are they necessary? After all avalanches don’t really happen in Japan and they are unheard of in Australia, as the land of perpetual sunshine doesn’t really have mountains. The first thing to dispel is the thought that avalanches don’t occur in either of these two countries, a quick google search can set you straight on that fact.
The second misconception can be that avalanche education is a tool to scare people out of the mountains and from deciding to go into the backcountry. The opposite is in fact the case, the goal of every educator is to promote the backcountry and to see people venturing out past the ski area boundaries. Ideally what we hope to achieve is people are making informed decisions in the backcountry to have an enjoyable day and get home safe.
A rescue in the backcountry can run into the 10’s of thousands of dollars. A backcountry course can arm you with the knowledge to make safe decisions to minimise risk and equip you with the skills to know what to do if an accident occurs.
The number of individuals and groups heading into the backcountry is on a steady rise globally, this is spurred on by a few different factors including cheaper more accessible touring set ups, social media influences and a greater desire of people to push the boundaries. With all this in mind going to get some basic information before heading into the backcountry should be a given.
There are many reasons to search out some avalanche and snow education, I began learning as I wanted to know where the best snow would be after different storm systems and where I should go to have the best powder days. Others enjoy the excuse to get in a few days in the backcountry and learn a few things along the way. Whatever the motivation is if you are planning to head into the backcountry take the time to learn some tools to make your day more enjoyable and safer.
Whiteroom are the first and only company to run Avalanche NZ accredited courses outside of New Zealand
The Avalanche Awareness Course (2-days) is an introductory level course laying the foundation for understanding what the white dragon is. Avalanche terrain identification and avoidance are the cornerstone for this course alongside learning what conditions are likely to produce an avalanche problem across the mountains. Students will come away with an understanding of environmental factors that may help them to decide that it will be a great day in the mountains or today should be a day to lap the lifts inbounds. Own party rescue will be high on the list of subjects with plenty of time spent learning the latest techniques with your own personal avalanche safety equipment including your avalanche transceiver(beacon), probe and snow shovel.
Our Backcountry Avalanche Course (4-days) is a chance to build on your skills that you may have learnt in a previous course. The key to these 4 days is to help students begin to make informed group based decisions in the backcountry and to further develop avalanche terrain identification and safe travel techniques. This course will spend three and a half day touring in the backcountry working in the terrain that you are likely to find once you start putting your path finding and risk minimisation skills to the test on your own backcountry adventures. Meteorology and pre-trip planning will play their part in the process of teaching students what they will need to consider when planning a day past the ski area rope lines. We will get hands on with the snowpack and dig test pits to begin to understand what secrets we can learn to help us identify common weaknesses in the snow. All this information will combine to help us to learn the basis of how we make the go/no go call on any given day or individual run.
Once again group based rescue will be a priority and we will expand on search techniques and organisation on a search site. Large scale scenarios will demonstrate how elements can quickly get away from the person that steps up to run a rescue.
Overall our courses are there to get people out enjoying the mountains as we do. As a community travelling in the backcountry it is our responsibility to keep ourselves safe but also to have the skills to give a helping hand if someone else is in need, and if this means you also learn where the best conditions should be, all the better. We hope to see you on one of courses soon.
Putting your skills to the test
After arming yourself with avalanche safety knowledge why not put your new skills to the test on one of Whiteroom Tours Japan Tours. For those looking to get into touring the Niseko Backcountry Tour is the one for you. For all you seasoned tourers the our Daisetsu Backcountry Tour will be what you want.
Looking to head to Japan but don’t want to earn your turns? We have a number of lift accessed backcountry tours that will enable to you ride some of the deepest and driest powder in the world whilst furthuring your backcountry experience