Guest Blog: Tamara Clauson’s Avalanche Training Course Experience

February 2, 2017

Tamara Clauson was a recipient of one of our Avalanche Training Courses, below is the experience she shared with the team!

My favorite aspect of the course was the outside practical work.  Practicing locating the target, using my equipment in the quickest way possible, and digging out the target was the most exciting and the most nerve wracking!  Even though it was a practice, it still gets your heart rate going and your adrenaline up!  So, it was stressful, but fun too, and great for getting the feel of an actual search while getting some body memory engraved.  I did learn that you can’t get so excited that you don’t  put your gloves back on when digging.  My gloves didn’t work very well with my receiver, so I would take them off when searching, but then I needed to put them on again to get probe/shovel out, and then dig – so I didn’t put them on because I thought it took too many seconds – on with the dig!!   I was reminded to not to do that when we talked about the search, and paid for that mistake with little painful cuts around my fingernails that showed up a few days later – ouch!

I would say that the course was more emotionally challenging than physically challenging for me because of the performance anxiety that arose, and that caused most of my newly learned classmates names to flee.  Embarrassing, but otherwise all good.   I have notes on all the classroom stuff, and we were able to use that information in class to help us make decisions either in the field, or as case studies in class.  I learn and remember more by actually doing something, or sometimes as case studies, so I found the course very good for remembering how to asses a situation, how to conduct a search, and how to dig out a victim, as well as assessing a snowpack.   Standing around in the cold also was a bit challenging,  You can see by my photo that I had multiple layers on, and looked like a troll!!

I think I may have taken this or a similar course about 35 years or more ago.  Things have changed drastically – not only equipment, but how to search, how to dig, how to assess the snowpack, and the avalanche report itself (being non-existant then), have changed this course into a different animal all together.  The AAI has really become professional and has an important role to provide information to people heading into the backcountry, as well as for all who live in or drive through mountain country.  As you know, more and more people are heading out into that backcountry, and even if the statistics remain the same per capita, it means overall, just more people will experience some problem in the backcountry.  The AAI is one way of getting information out to others, and how to access, assess, and assess, and to respect where and what you and others will do in the backcountry.

I find the biggest challenge is to find and go out with someone who may have the same open time in their schedule, and who actually is willing to spend the time doing a snow pack test, and/or an assessment, much less a beacon test.

I would recommend this course to anyone who skis/rides/shoes in the winter landscapes of the backcountry.  Even those that commute over the pass every day!  It is sort of like taking a CPR/1st Aid course regularly to stay up to date.  You may not only possibly save yourself, but someone else’s life as well.