Foothills Mountaineers Avalanche Education Program
where we're at .....
Our Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Committee has been teaching avalanche safety for six seasons with the Foothills Branch of the Mountaineers. Prior to making the change to Foothills the same core group was the Seattle BSSC dating back to well before the time of rescue beacons etc. The courses have been developed over the years and have been based on both AAA and AIARE curriculum standards since such standards have existed. In addition we have tried to review and integrate new information as it emerges each season.
Last season we were able to put some sixty folks through our Basic Avalanche Awareness/Companion Rescue Course and another sixty two completed our Level One Avalanche Course as either part of the Ski and Snowboard Mountaineering Course or as a stand alone course. All of this has been accomplished though the endless generosity of our volunteer network, a few of which have been at this for around thirty years!
The Mountaineers began to seek a common standard across branches for these courses about five years ago. Gerry Haugen, Jim Heber and Dale Rankin put a huge amount of effort into developing a standard for agreement among the branches. This effort was tossed around for a few years but never really made it to consensus. Sort of paralleling this effort was a movement among some branches to adopt AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) as the standard. Which brings us to:
The AIARE methods and materials have been around for quite awhile .... the Everett Branch has been using them for about five years. Seattle has recently embraced them. They are well put together and nicely structured. Students completing the Level One course are presented a certificate that is internationally recognized. All this has a rather steep cost however. For an organization to be a certified AIARE course provider they need to have a course leader with an AIARE Level three certification. Chuck Maclaren has both the will and the determination to be that person, though it may take a few years for him to reach that goal. In the mean time we will have to hire a course leader from an outside source. In addition to that we need to train and certify as many level one instructors as we can. the requirements for a level one instructor are as follows: complete a level one course, audit an AIARE level one course, complete an AIARE level two course, complete an AIARE level one instructor training course. We are in a three year transition to full AIARE certification. This first year we have gone ahead and purchased the course materials and in the process of integrating them into our lectures. We have also scheduled an instructor training weekend for December 4th and 5th. This weekend will in essence be an AIARE level one field trip taught by Martin Volken.