What’s up with the Rec | Pro Split?

Truth be told, it’s been a long time coming.  Yep you guessed it – avalanche education in the United States has just made a major shift.  As an educator that values consistency in teaching and outcomes for students – I’d say the avalanche education Rec | Pro split is for the better. Thanks impart to a partnership between the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and the leading avalanche education providers throughout the nation including the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), American Avalanche Institute (AAI), and the National Avalanche School the avalanche education industry will be moving towards more continuity (similar to our Canadian neighbors).

What actually is the Rec | Pro Split, and why is it necessary?

The former avalanche education progression was quite cumbersome, which included the Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 progression for all users despite individualized needs.  Blending the recreation user with the professional is challenging for both the educator and student alike due to the varying needs related to course content and student outcomes.   Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear that these two “tracks” will now be separated.  Avalanche education providers, like SOLE’s AIARE avalanche education program, will now offer Rec track avalanche education course offerings, which are required to progress to the Pro track whereas Pro track offerings will be offered by the over-arching providers like AIARE, AAI, etc (see the image below for more information).

With these shifts, we look forward to more positive outcomes for participants that take our AIARE courses this season and have needed the Pro | Rec split in the industry for some time.  In addition, to the advantages of separating the two avalanche education user-types, providers and the governing body (AAA) have come together to create more consistency across the industry, akin to what has occurred with wilderness medicine providers and the Wilderness Medical Society.  The results will surely be impactful for all.  Instead of recreational users getting bogged down in the microscopic details of snow crystallography they will now be able to focus on the concepts that really matter at that specific level.  Conversely, avalanche professionals (forecasters, ski guides, etc) will now have the opportunity to “geek out” when needed and have a common interest while doing so!

Some take home points…

  • What is the difference between AAA and AIARE, and how does SOLE fit in the mix?  In simple terms, AAA develops the guidelines for avalanche education providers in the United States.  AIARE is an approved avalanche education provider and takes the guidelines developed by AAA and has developed rigorous, standardized training and curriculum for both pro courses and rec courses which is evidence-based.   This is exactly why SOLE chose the AIARE avalanche education program.  SOLE’s AIARE Field Instructors are avalanche education professionals and besides teaching AIARE courses for SOLE in the winter often work ski guiding, avalanche forecasting, or ski patrolling.  SOLE is an AIARE approved avalanche education provider.
  • Which track is for me, Rec or Pro?  Well, it depends.  Recreational avalanche education is for those who want to make sound decisions in the backcountry.  For example, developing essential skills like determining if you should ski the slope or not is something that you would explore in the Rec track.  On the other hand, the Pro track is for those who would like to pursue or those who are actively working in a professional setting.  Examples include, but not limited to, mitigation work, avalanche forecasting, ski guiding, etc.  It is important to note,  Rec coursework is required to progress to Pro Course offerings.  Also, Pro courses are longer in duration and include a formal evaluation as part of the course.
  • Where should I begin my avalanche education?  As old adage, “why fix something if it ain’t broken” rings true. A Rec Level 1 Course is a great starting point, as well as, the BRAND SPANKING NEW one-day Avalanche Rescue course.  Afterwards, if you would like to progress you will need to demonstrate experience in the avalanche field.  Most avalanche education providers recommend a solid year further developing your skills after taking your Level 1, which will allow you to transition to the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1 course depending on specific needs and skills.  The Avalanche Rescue course is a pre-requisite for the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1.
  • If I already have my Level 2, can I just transition to the Pro track? Not so fast.  You will need to take what is called a Bridge Course with an accompanying exam to achieve Pro 1 Certification. This Bridge Course will evaluate your skills from the previous Level 2 training. It is important to note, this opportunity will be offered briefly, and after the initial two years of the new progression, someone with an old Level 2 will need to take and complete a Pro 1 course to pursue the Pro track – so now’s the time to get on it!

SOLE will continue to offer the full breadth of Rec courses for the 2017 – 2018 season, including the brand new Avalanche Rescue course, women’s specific, youth-specific, and adult co-ed Rec Level 1 course offerings!  So stay tuned-in and refresh often on our website and social media sites.  For more information on these courses and to register for any of our avalanche education programs click here.

Hope to see you on the snow,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

 

B-I-G Backcountry Thank You!

As the whirlwind from the 2016-2017 Backcountry Film Festival brought a plethora of snow throughout our winter program season, we would like to reflect back on where it all started this season with a big ‘ole – ‘THANK YOU’ to the greater Sandpoint community and beyond for starting this season off right!

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Throughout the evening on December 2nd 2017 over 430 people help SOLE raise essential funds for our 2016-2017 SnowSchool Experience  program season, while joining us to celebrate our film SnowSchool: A Winter Wildlands Experience that was selected as a finalist in this year’s Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival.

Check out what the ‘buzz’ is all about by watching our SnowSchool film below!

We are still reeling from the experience of it all, and are quite humbled.  Especially since this is the first time a SnowSchool has been shown in the 12 years that the Backcountry Film Festival has been touring.  What an honor!  Oh yeah, did we mention?  It will be shown at over 100 locations worldwide.  SOLE’s annual fundraising event is held before each winter season at the Panida Theater to help SOLE raise critical funds for our SnowSchool Experience  program where we currently serve over 500 youth each season.

g39hifj3nmadzvqjj2sbia2xpnvunks5urmgamh36ooDuring this seasons event attendees helped us raise over $5,000 during our most recent event! Funds raised assists SOLE in providing this intentional and transformational programming to local area youth most of whom live in poverty and have never had an opportunity to explore and learn in their winter wildlands via snowshoe.  We are truly honored and grateful to have the support and opportunity to teach in such a wonderful setting.

 

gyrpelkeq5g9oorjvkthelnmcfgzt8a6u9zvyjuohewThe reality is we could not do the work we do without our corporate and community sponsors and partners.  Once again both stepped up at this year’s event contributing awesome schawg and gear for our Rockin’ Raffle and Holiday Silent Auction where attendees could bid on novel gifts and prizes.  In addition, event attendees were able to interface with present and former SnowSchool students from Clark Fork Outdoor Track and Northside Elementary School at informational booths.  Being new to SOLE it was wonderful to see everyone having a good night, while giving their genuine support for this community and what we do!

In closing, it is important to note – without each of YOU our annual SnowSchool Experience program would not be possible.  We appreciate your continued support and hope that you will join us again next year on December 1st, 2017 at the historic Panida Theater in beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho as we strive to ‘reach and teach’ even more youth!

Hope to see you out on the snow!

Maegan Ward
SOLE Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

Are You Suffering From Frequency Drift?

beaconOver the last several years, the number of backcountry users has increased drastically.  There are many reasons why we have seen this increase, but that’s what we will be discussing today, because I don’t think I need to explain the bliss of an un-tracked slope with just you and your friends!

Hopefully by now, most of you know the importance of proper avalanche gear including the (3) essential items — an avalanche transceiver (or beacon), shovel and probe.  That said, your equipment is only as good as proper education.  Here at SOLE, we offer avalanche education courses that allow you to develop outdoor technical skills, including how to use rescue equipment coupled with the opportunity to develop outdoor leadership skills like judgment and decision-making.  Still the reality is we should all “plan ahead and prepare” and be ready to respond appropriately. Besides organizations like SOLE, ski resorts, land managers, guiding companies, avalanche centers, and backcountry forums are becoming increasingly better at educating backcountry users the risks associated with backcountry travel and the necessary gear and education to manage those risks.  So for now let’s say you have a working understanding of how to use your avalanche beacon.

One thing we should ask ourselves is this; does your beacon still work?  Beacons talk to each other by transmitting at the same frequency.  As long as both beacon frequencies are within a specific range, they will continue to talk.  There have been numerous studies, however, indicating what’s known as “frequency drift”. Frequency drift can happen when your beacon gets extremely hot or cold, if there is physical damage to your beacon and age.  Older beacons were made from fairly inexpensive parts that age just like us.  When this happens, they can “drift” out of their programmed frequency making it impossible for other beacons to find their signal.

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Luckily, there is a very quick and efficient trick to make sure your and your partner’s beacons still works, practice.

So your Tuesday’s Tech Tip for the Trail is to get your beacons out and practice with those you will likely go out with.  This not only gives you practice before the snow flies, but allows you to see if your beacons function the way they were designed and ensures that you or your buddies beacon hasn’t “drifted” out of range.  Put some fresh batteries in before your practice day and you’ll be prepared for the first snow of the season!

Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about frequency drift, beacons, avalanche gear or anything else you might have questions with!

SOLE Ramps Up for Another Winter Season!

It’ll be here before you know it, that little white stuff will fall from the sky and begin to shape our landscape into a winter wonderland!  As such, we are already in high-gear ramping up for another great winter season.  So check out what we have in store for our 2015-2016 winter season thus far.

 

 

 

For starters, we will continue and expand our SnowSchool Experience SM programIMG_6562 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort where we will offer a novel K-12 place-based experiential education curriculum which will focuses on the (5) cornerstones of snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, outdoor living, and outdoor leadership.  During the 2015-2016 winter season our Schweitzer SnowSchool Experience SM site is positioned to serve over 300 + youth this winter – resulting in over 2,400 hours of transformational experiential education programming outdoors for North Idaho youth!   It should be noted, as part of this effort SOLE will be working with the brand-spanking new Clark Fork Junior High School / High School Outdoor Track, which we are really excited about! In addition, SOLE personnel are in the process of developing several pilot programs at our new field campuses at Lookout Pass, and Mt. Spokane.  More information will be shared as development continues, so please check back often.

Learn more about our SnowSchool Experience SM program by going here.  

DSCN0357In addition, SOLE is looking forward to continue to offer avalanche education program offerings for our local and regional stakeholders.  These courses will include our AIARE Level 1, and AIARE Level 2 Courses, as well as, several new course offerings.  During our Level 1 weekends, SOLE will also offer a AIARE Level 1 Refresher for those looking to freshen up their winter backcountry skills.  In addition, for the average outdoor enthusiasts (i.e., snowmobilers, snowshoers, etc.) looking to just become more ‘backcountry aware’ in the winter we will be offering Avalanche Awareness Courses.

Learn more about our Avalanche Education Experience SM program by going here.  

To help us design, coordinate, and facilitate these high quality transformational experiences we are very excited to announce that will be partnering with various organizations, business and have even extended the SOLE family to include some exceptional Field Instructors, including AIARE Course Leader and Director of the Wallowa Avalanche Center, Kip Rand.  To learn more about him and the rest of our Field Instructors please go here, and be sure to check back frequently as we continue to deepen our winter faculty pool.