Avalanche Course 2009

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You have time to realize that you are going to die.-- Claire, on being caught in an avalanche

sponsored by: Caltech Alpine Club & the Caltech Alumni Association

Announcement: Applications are due Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008.


Interested in completing the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche course? The Caltech Alpine Club has made has made arrangements for 18 participants to take the course with Sierra Mountaineering International (SMI) on Jan 17-19 2009, which is a holiday weekend. Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey I sent out!

The 3-day course teaches skills necessary to make smart decisions in avalanche terrain; topics include planning and prep for travel in avalanche terrain, human factors, terrain recognition, red flag observations, terrain selection, travel techniques, basic hazard management, and basic companion rescue. Additional details on the course are at avtraining.org's Level-1 description


Spaces are limited and time is short. We need everyone interested in participating to complete two forms ASAP. The first is an application due on Saturday, Dec 20. We will review the applications and select participants based on their level of activity in outdoor events at Caltech and on their level of activity in backcountry situations for which the Level 1 course would be beneficial.

The second form is an information form/waiver required by SMI. We are asking everyone to complete this form now because SMI needs the information to reserve the dates; in order to complete this process before the holidays, we need to have the forms ready to mail on Monday. Only the forms of selected participants will be forwarded to SMI; the envelopes of those not selected will not be opened. Participants will be selected and notified by Monday, Dec 22; a waiting list will also be created. The application and form are available on the Alpine Club website at...

Please follow the instructions on the form; to email a form, send to JoHanna at johannap [at] caltech.edu


The Caltech Alpine Club has negotiated a special rate for the Level 1 Avalanche Safety course. It will cost $190/participant, as opposed to $350! In addition, we have received limited funding from the Alumni Association. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, we cannot cover the full cost of the trip for all participants. The cost will be $190 or less for students; due to the limited funding, we will only be able to reduce the cost for students (undergraduate and graduate). The reduction will be greater for undergraduates; however, the exact amount will depend on the number of student participants. Staff, JPL and postdocs will be asked to pay $190 for the course. We are sorry that we cannot provide an exact cost at the moment; and we hope that students will not be discouraged from participating because of the cost. Even the negotiated rate of $190 is a huge savings for such a course.


The course will be based out of the Bishop area (about a 4 hour drive from Pasadena). There are several motels in Bishop. Just oustide of Bishop, the White Mountain Research Center offers beds (with linens, etc.) for $27/night/person. And camping is a substantially cheaper alternative; though, one should note that the lows can drop below 20 degrees F. Participants will be responsible for covering their own lodging costs; however, we will help to coordinate for sharing hotel rooms and campsites. Additional details will be sent to participants. Also, Bishop is very close to several excellent hotsprings; see the Alpine Club's hotsprings page.


Don’t let not having a car stop you! We will coordinate carpools. Though the application asks if you are able to drive, your response will not influence your selection; we are asking now so that planning the carpools will be easier later. People are expected to give some money to their driver for gas.


Any questions should be sent to JoHanna at johannap [at] caltech.edu


We expect to have a lot of demand for only 18 spots. If you don't get one of those spots, and still want to take an avalanche course, please let us know! If there is enough demand, it may be possible to arrange for another course (though probably without any subsidy, just a group deal). You may also arrange your own avalanche course. The following three guide services all offer AIARE Level I 3-day courses, and are all based in Bishop; our course in 2007 was with SMC and the feedback was great!

Guide service Location 2009 course dates

Sierra Mountaineering International (SMI)

Bishop Jan 2-4, Jan 23-25, Feb 6-8, Mar 6-8, Apr 17-19

Tier 3/Avalanche/AIARELevel1AvalancheCourse.htm Sierra Mountain Guides (SMG)

Bishop Jan 16-18, Feb 6-8, Feb 14-16

Sierra Mountain Center (SMC)

Bishop Jan 2-4, Jan 17-19, Feb 14-16, Mar 20-22

SMC also has a new variant of the course: on January 21 and 22, they will do classes (in the evening, presumably) at the REI store in Rancho Cucamonga. Then fieldwork is in Bishop on January 24 and 25. The idea is that participants don't have to miss a day of work to take the course.

We may also hold informal refresher sessions (perhaps with Sierra Madre Search and Rescue) and beacon practice (at the beach)! These activities are not AIARE certified. (Update: we did this -- see Winter Safety Workshop 2009 ).

Attached documents

See Also