Learning about avalanches and how to travel safely with them, takes time. It is a balance of getting out in the snow and growing experience as well as ongoing learning from courses, information sharing and mentorship.
In New Zealand, the formal avalanche education pathway starts with recreational courses and spans through the professional Avalanche Risk Management courses. The curriculum and content is closely aligned to the US and Canadian systems and overseen by the national Avalanche Education Working Group (AEWG).
Know before you go - Get the Training
NZ Avalanche Learning Pathway
1 to 3 hour lectures and 'Virtual' On-line courses
Awareness of avalanche hazards, the information and resources available to the public.
These take the form of discussions, lecture talks, workshops and online theory courses. Usually the larger public talks are associated with other festivals or events, and the smaller more informal discussions, or 'Fireside Chats' are held on a regular basis allowing for more interaction.
For a schedule of coming events/talks/fireside chats see:
The free Virtual Avalanche theory course is available anytime and allows people to learn at their own pace, and in their own time. It is also a prerequisite before coming on a field based course.
To go to the free online course:
All of the above are generally without any practical component. Some sharp cookie once said - “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind”. That's where the following courses play the pivotal role of bringing theory and practice together.
1-2 day introductory courses.
These courses introduce the participants to the fundamentals of what an avalanche is and how to avoid them. They also cover rescue skills and encourage further learning.
4-5 day recreational courses.
These courses grow on the basics taught at the introductory level and develop an understanding of how weather and terrain contribute to avalanche hazard, route selection, decision making and rescue skills.
National Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management – Stage 1 (Level 5)
This qualification will provide the outdoor snow sector with individuals who are able to manage personal risk from avalanche hazards while carrying our activities in dynamic outdoor contexts.
This qualification intends to benefit New Zealand by improving the avalanche risk management knowledge and strategies of practitioners which aims to reduce incidents and fatalities in alpine environments.
Graduates of this qualification are able to contribute to the daily operation of, and work under the broad guidance of, a Safety Management System (SMS).
This qualification is delivered by tertiary institutes across New Zealand and is a prerequisite for a number for employment pathways with in the sector including ski patrolling and mountain guiding.
For more information from specific course providers see:
National Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management – Stage 2 (Level 6)
This qualification will provide the outdoor snow sector with individuals who have the advanced skills and knowledge required to evaluate and manage avalanche risk to people and infrastructure while operating in dynamic outdoor contexts.
This qualification is intended to benefit New Zealand by advancing avalanche risk management knowledge and practices which aim to assist in reducing incidents and fatalities in alpine environments both within New Zealand and internationally.
Graduates of this qualification are able to undertake supervisory roles and have responsibility for other team members when leading avalanche risk management programmes within an organisation.
This qualification is comparable to the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) Avalanche Operations Stage 2 course. It is also recognised by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA).
- Graduates who hold the optional strand in Avalanche Programme Management (Stage 3) are also able to provide oversight and operational leadership of an entire Avalanche Risk Management Programme including the supervision of other staff and bearing responsibility for full risk-based decision making with regards to the practice and safety of staff and clients/participants.