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Mastering Avalanche Rescue: Why Practice Makes Perfect

A skier shown practicing avalanche rescue by using a shovel and probe
A group practicing avalanche rescue skills in Lake Tahoe
A skier practicing a beacon locating drill during avalanche rescue training with Alpenglow Expeditions.

Venturing into the backcountry offers unparalleled adventure and breathtaking scenery, but it also comes with inherent risks, particularly avalanches. One of the most crucial skills every backcountry enthusiast needs is avalanche rescue, however owning the necessary equipment is just the beginning. Regular practice with your backcountry crew is crucial to mastering this life-saving technique.

Perhaps you’ve taken an AIARE 1 Avalanche Safety course or maybe you’ve had the opportunity to take an AIARE Avalanche Rescue course (an entire 8 hour course dedicated to efficient avalanche rescue) where you’ve learned rescue skills and put them into action. Practicing avalanche rescue skills outside of a classroom setting ensures that you and your team are prepared for the worst-case scenario. In a high-stress situation where every second counts, having muscle memory and coordination are invaluable. Regular drills allow each member to familiarize themselves with their equipment and roles, reducing panic and increasing efficiency when a real emergency arises.

Re-enacting a burial or multi-burial scenario by burying beacons in backpacks or duffel bags is a great way to practice beacon locating skills. Challenge your crew to set a timer and see who can get the fastest recovery time. Practice strategic shoveling, such as the chop and sweep method, to allow for the most efficient removal of snow while expending the least energy possible. See who can move the most snow in the least amount of time! Finally, practice assigning and delegating roles to each group member as a way to maximize efficiency and group control in a  chaotic situation. Another valuable use of practice time is to review everyone’s med kits as well as their medical training. Consider taking a Wilderness First Aid course as a way to increase your preparedness to handle a backcountry emergency.

Ultimately, the goal of practicing avalanche rescue with your backcountry crew is to mitigate risks and maximize safety. While these are skills that you hope to never have to use in a real-life scenario, it is crucial to practice as though you will.  Remember, in the backcountry preparation is key, and practicing avalanche rescue with your partners could mean the difference between life and death.

Keep your skills sharp with an Avalanche Rescue Course

Avalanche Education course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course In North Lake Tahoe

Introductory Full Day / 8 Hours Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course In South Lake Tahoe

Introductory Full Day 8 Hours South Lake Tahoe