Avalanche Education

No matter how you prefer to recreate in the mountains, understanding avalanche basics is the foundation to a fun and safe day in the backcountry. The most effective way to learn about avalanches and how to avoid them is to take an avalanche class from a qualified course provider. Many online resources exist that provide a good introduction to avalanche basics and offer extensive opportunities for continued education. The following resources are an excellent way to keep your skills and knowledge current so that you can continue to enjoy the Eastern Sierra for years to come. 

*ESAC's 2020/2021 Virtual Education Series - Recorded Events* - Live events every first Wednesday of the Month!

-Backcountry Basics

-Avalanche awareness, How to use the advisory, and a discussion on the current state of the snowpack

-A discussion about the weak snowpack across the west, recent avalanche accidents, human factors, and the current state of the snowpack.

- Debrief on the avalanche accident that occurred in the Main Bardini chute on January 30th, 2021. This round table discussion focuses on lessons learned and a thoughtful conversation about risk, decision making, and uncertainty in avalanche terrain. 


Learn to Use the ESAC Website

  • How to Read the Advisory The avalanche advisory is designed for people who have taken an avalanche awareness or Level 1 avalanche class. For those without formal avalanche education, we have put together a quick tutorial on the concepts of the avalanche advisory and how to interpret the information provided.
  • Avalanche Danger Ratings The avalanche danger scale is an internationally standardized five-part scale. The Utah Avalanche Center has compiled this very effective description of the Avalanche Danger scale, and what each rating means for you as a backcountry traveler.
  • Avalanche Problems There are many different kinds of avalanches, and each has unique characteristics that influence terrain and travel choices. How are they created? Where can you expect to find them? How do you recognize and manage specific problems? How long do they last? Understanding the different avalanche problems is fundamental to understanding the avalanche danger.
  • Observations Page The Observation page contains an extensive list of recent snowpack, weather, and avalanche observations. The Eastern Sierra is a vast range with a very low density of backcountry users compared to other mountainous areas. With only three paid forecasters, observations from others provide valuable information on snowpack and avalanche trends. These observations can also be a useful source of point-specific information for the public to use when planning there day. Submit your own observations by clicking HERE.

Online Resources and Tutorials

  • Avalanche Basics The American Avalanche Association has extensive information on avalanche basics including and interactive tutorial, information on course providers and proper course progression, and a comprehensive list of avalanche accidents in North America.
  • Avalanche Encyclopedia The Avalanche Encyclopedia compiled by the American Avalanche Association lists commonly used terms and phrases and provides descriptions and definitions.
  • Know Before You Go A free, online learning program that is an excellent season refresher or pre-course learning opportunity. Get a head start before taking an avalanche awareness or Level 1 avalanche course.
  • New Zealand Online Avalanche Training Module This online training module takes you through the basics of traveling in avalanche terrain and touches on many topics that you will encounter in an avalanche class. Keep in mind that this resource was designed for an audience in the Southern Hemisphere. Interchange North and South aspects in your head as you utilize this resource north of the equator.
  • Avalanche Canada Online Avalanche Tutorial This Free online resource introduces the basics of avalanche formation, recognizing avalanche terrain, understanding the avalanche forecast, and the basics of avalanche rescue.
  • BCA Avalanche Education Video Series Backcountry Access has produced a series of videos with topics like backcountry tour planning, avalanche safety for snowmobilers, and how to use your avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel properly.

Resources for Motorized Users​

  • Backcountry Ascender SkiDoo and BCA have teamed up to create this free online backcountry education platform. This self-directed program provides users with basic avalanche education and provides a lot of useful information to direct users to relevant in-person courses, Skidoo/BCA sponsored seminars, as well as more advanced education opportunities.
  • Throttle Decisions This video series from Avalanche Canada is intended to show motorized users what they need to know to get out, have fun, and stay alive in avalanche terrain.
  • Avalanche Education for Snowmobilers This online resource compiled by the International Association of Snowmobile Administrators is a collection of avalanche educational products created especially for the snowmobile community.
  • Safe Riders! Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program provides the basic essentials about snowmobile safety and includes short quizzes to help test your knowledge about safe snowmobiling practices.
  • SkiDoo Online Avalanche Course This free on-line resource was built in collaboration with Backcountry Access and offers a great video series detailing many snowmobile specific resources.

Local Avalanche Course Providers

Other California Avalanche Centers


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