Class Calendar


NWAC looks to meet otherwise unmet needs in avalanche education. Our offerings are aimed at supporting our mission, and most are free of charge, though some programs are offered on a cost-recovery basis. At present, NWAC offers the following avalanche education programs; each is described below:

  • NWAC - AIARE Avalanche Awareness
  • NWAC - Basic Avalanche Skills Course (BASC) for Snowmobilers


The NWAC - AIARE Avalanche Awareness Program is offered as a public service to communities, schools and outdoor clubs.  Program length is 1.5 hours.  Specific programs are in place for middle and high schools, motorized (snowmobile) users, non-motorized (skier, snowboarder, snowshoer) and mixed user groups.

The course is expected to:

  • Introduce and explain to students where and why avalanches occur.
  • Describe who gets caught and why.
  • Provide a basic approach to staying safe in the backcountry.

This course targets the young and unaware backcountry traveler, and introduces the recognition of avalanche danger and how to reduce the risk.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Learn to access local avalanche bulletins and weather reports.
  • Recognize basic signs of avalanche danger.
  • Learn to avoid avalanche danger.
  • Understand the need for companion rescue techniques and equipment.

The course utilizes interactive presentation materials and local case histories and encourages questions from the audience.  Participants that are more than casual users of the backcountry are encouraged to take a multiple day avalanche course. 

Basic Avalanche Skills Course (BASC) for Snowmobilers 

Course Description:

This new class offered by the Northwest Avalanche Center is built on guidelines from the American Avalanche Association.  A 3-hour classroom session specifically addressing avalanche safety for snowmobilers is followed by a 4-hour field session teaching students how to perform efficient companion rescue in an avalanche accident.   This course is intended as an accessible course for all levels of snowmobilers, from beginner to pro, and provides students with the opportunity to learn and practice avalanche basics and companion rescue in a realistic setting. It prepares students well for a 3-day Level 1 Avalanche course.

Course Content:

AM session:                     

  • Introduction to avalanche terminology, avalanche statistics, and why avalanches are considered dangerous.
  • Avalanche terrain:  Where avalanches happen, how to identify avalanche terrain.
  • Understanding avalanche bulletins and forecasts:  How is this information useful to backcountry snowmobilers?
  • Snowpack and weather factors:  How do these factors make avalanches more or less likely?
  • Obvious clues and red flags for increasing avalanche danger
  • Travel protocols:  Where to park, one person on a slope at a time, getting unstuck, and more.
  • Avalanche Safety gear and Companion Rescue:  Discuss equipment and introduce companion rescue concepts for afternoon session.

PM session:   Hands-on training and practice

  • Beacon operation and search principles
  • Demonstration and practice of signal, course, fine, and pinpoint beacon searches
  • Probing and strategic shoveling
  • Rescue practice scenarios including group management challenges
  • Multiple burial, multiple searcher scenarios of increasing complexity
  • Overview of first aid and emergency skills needed in actual rescues