Avalanche Awareness for Ski Tourers and Freeriders
Since I’ve been venturing into the world of Splitboarding, I’ve also been accumulating kit over the last few years and seeking out the knowledge needed for touring in the Scottish hills. So after reading A chance in a Million and a few books by Bruce Tremper I felt I should get into the classroom for some education.
The 2 day course was held not long after I returned from a holiday to Livigno in the Italian Alps, but it was found wanting for snow, so our first day was mostly in the classroom with Malcolm our Instructor. We covered the theory behind snow science, discussing the snowpack and how we may interact with it and assess its behaviour under a variety of conditions.
We would then do some practical exercises outside in the transceiver park and forest where I would soon learn that using avalanche beacons isn’t as straight forward as pointing and following the arrows. It was far more nuanced and keeping an eye on the distance was key to reaching any potential victim you may be trying to save.
The following day, despite Cairngorms Mountain not having any skiable terrain, we went up the hill on foot and got to dig pits in the solid banks of snow that dotted the slopes.
Further up, the mountain we would try an actual beacon recover. Out instructor would bury his beacon and I would set off to recover it.
I found myself once again reacting too quickly to the beacon, so on occasions I would be sent in the wrong direction, not giving the device enough time to calculate the direction. I did find my target though and then set about probing in the hard snow, feeling for the ‘body’ under the snow. Once pinpointed I dug and dug. I can only imagine what this must be like in a panicked state if this was a buddy lost in an avalanche. Hence I ordered myself a second hand beacon do I am able to do practice searches off the hill.
The course overall was great, I stayed at Glenmore Lodge where I had breakfast and dinner as well as packed lunches provided for the 2 days of the course. In the evening there were additional lectures on navigation and more on avalanche awareness. Just a pity there was no snow. Any time I can get gaining experience on my splitboard is appreciated.
There are many other courses out there, so maybe later I can try one of those and tour beyond the safe haven of the ski slopes. It was the Avalanche Awareness for Ski Tourers and Freeriders course that I took.