Virtual Avalanche Classroom
This page is your gateway to start learning about avalanches. We hope the links from this page help to get you 'hooked', so you will want to take a field based practical avalanche course. The core skills that you will start to build and learn are the same for anyone who wants to head into the back country, whether you travel on skis, snowboard, use ice axe and crampons, or enjoy hiking and hunting in the alpine environment.
The links below offer you many options to work your way through online avalanche courses. These will give you the background fundamentals needed so you can get the most out of your days on any snow based course. We recommend that you work through as many of these resources as you can. They are all good resources, some more detailed than others, but all should help you to broaden your basic understanding of avalanche concepts.
NZ avalanche specialist and educator Gordie Smith put this great course together. It brings together many of his photos, online videos, and text that walks you through the basics of traveling in avalanche terrain, covering (quickly) all the topics that you'd encounter in an avalanche class. It includes an interactive game where you can try and find your way safely through avalanche terrain, avoiding the hotpsots where avalanches might be lurking. This resource gives students the chance to prepare, giving them a framework of theory to hang the field skills they will practice during any snow based course.
A self marking test at the end of this course helps to check your understanding. Give it a go as many times as you need to get all the answers correct.
This contains multiple chapters introducing the basics of recreational avalanche safety. Understanding the principles of avalanche formation, and ultimately avalanche types, is the foundation for understanding avalanche danger. There is also a comprehensive 'pre-trip planning' section.
If you need any motivation for why you should start your avalanche education, then look no further. Here is a humbling account using videos, links, and further online resources to help expose you to essential and fundamental skills.
This is a 5 part video series hosted by British Olympic skier Graham Bell, and featuring Wanaka Mtn Guide and Educator, Pete Bilous
Follows the Know Before You Go programme and is a 5 video series produced by avalanche equipment manufacturer BCA. This contains references for a Nth American audience, so substitute in your local avalanche centre, and remember to flip South and North Aspects in your head as you watch this south of the equator.
Another 5 part video series of lectures from the Nth America. These introduce the following discussions:
Part 1 -Introduction to Avalanches and Unstable Snow
Part 2 -Avalanche Terrain and Mountain Weather
Part 3 - Avalanche forecasts and safe travel techniques
Part 4 - Rescue
Part 5 - Human factors / decision making
This is a Canadian video series intended to show snowmobilers what they need to know to get out, have fun, and stay alive in avalanche terrain. There are many parallels for any back country user and the theory is the same for us all, no matter what your means of travel. Get a comfortable place to sit, grab some refreshments, and enjoy this spectacular production. Great learning and entertainment.