This year's epic winter storms presented outdoor education majors in ODAL's winter backcountry survival courses with unusually realistic challenges.

Learning Backcountry Safety in a Blizzard

Epic winter storms presented unusually realistic challenges for January participants in ODAL’s annual Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness First Responder Recertification, and AIARE outdoor education classes.

Wilderness First Responder Training

WFR students braved epic winter storms of sierra dumps and torrential rain during their courses, which provide intensive training in backcountry emergency medicine and culminate in a full-scale night mock rescue. They learned the importance of prior planning and preparation negotiating travel restrictions and power outages, often staying overnight in the dorms to make to class every morning by 8am. 21 SNC students and 7 community members completed their NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Wilderness First Responder certification, and 23 community members, a member of the SNC Board of Trustees, and 4 SNC alumni completed their Wilderness First Responder Recertification requirements. No fingers or toes were lost, and you couldn’t ask for better weather for learning wilderness first responder skills!

Intro to Winter Backcountry Skills – AIARE Level 1

The 10 students in the AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) course, who learn to assess avalanche hazards, practice safe travel techniques, and perform avalanche rescues, were able to see and study historic avalanche activity that occurred just prior to the course. There were massive avalanches pushing debris that took out trees and ran 1500 feet into drainages below, wet slab avalanches, wind slab avalanches . . . The snow was beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for better learning conditions.

We also hosted an AIARE Lead Instructor Training course concurrently with the WFR class. 20 avalanche professionals, including SNC professor Daryl Teittinen, came from all over the country to collaborate on improving avalanche education curricula. Pretty exciting stuff!

Back by Popular Demand

An additional section of AIARE has been added running March 1 through March 5, 2017. AIARE, WFR, and WFR Recertification courses will all be offered again next winter. The classes, a potentially lifesaving resource for the active residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin, are an integral part of SNC Tahoe’s outdoor education major.