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The NSP Avalanche Program

Colorado Avalanhce Information Center Utah Avalanche Center Recco Avalanche Rescue Technology

Avalanche Education Saves Lives

More and more skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and snowmobilers are accessing the backcountry every winter in search of untracked powder and adventure. Backcountry terrain is neither controlled nor patrolled, and under the right (or wrong!) conditions, avalanches can turn adventure into tragedy.

While large avalanches can easily destroy anything in their path, smaller avalanches are more often responsible for injuries or death to people. The overall survival rate for someone caught in an avalanche is one in three. These sobering statistics indicate that it is critical to be well-versed in both avalanche avoidance and avalanche rescue techniques.

NSP has been educating ski patrollers and other search and rescue personnel since 1957, making it the oldest and most experienced provider of avalanche education for professionals in the U.S. Recently, NSP has expanded its program, offering avalanche education for general recreationists as well.

All NSP avalanche courses meet or exceed curriculum recommendations established for each course by the American Avalanche Association. Course content is frequently updated to incorporate the latest science-based knowledge, skills, and techniques. All avalanche education courses are taught by NSP-certified avalanche instructors who have undergone rigorous training and evaluation of technical knowledge and teaching skill.

NSP is proud to support the  Know Before You Go program. This program, in collaboration with the  National Avalanche Center,  Friends of CAIC and  Recco, is designed to increase basic avalanche awareness and education for Junior High through College age students.

For more information on a course, whether a simple awareness presentation or a Level 1 avalanche program with extensive field training, contact the NSP today. A brief description of the courses offered is listed below.

Avalanche Awareness

This outreach presentation introduces inexperienced winter enthusiasts to the basics of avalanche hazard and the knowledge and skills they need to learn before venturing into avalanche terrain. It may be presented to clubs, school groups, or other recreational organizations. It serves as a precursor to the Level 1 Avalanche Course.

Prerequisite: None.

Time Commitment: Flexible (30-90 minutes)

Fees: Determined locally

Credential: None

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of Record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required Text: None

Optional References: Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches, by Jill Fredston

Introduction to Avalanche Safety and Rescue

This course introduces fundamental principles of avalanche hazard, safety and rescue. It is designed for interested ski patrollers, members of mountain search and rescue groups, and others who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain. It qualifies as an NSP senior patroller elective, but it does not meet Level 1 avalanche course standards and does not qualify as a prerequisite for enrollment in Level 2 avalanche courses.

The organized rescue portion of this course may be suitable for presentation to non-patrol resort personnel who may become involved in a support capacity in avalanche rescue scenarios. It is also suitable for personnel of agencies who may have jurisdictional involvement in an avalanche rescue, but who would not physically work in the field. Optional field exercises are available.

Prerequisite: None

Time commitment: Minimum of eight hours classroom instruction

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required texts: None

Optional references: Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches, by Jill Fredston

Standard Level 1 Avalanche

This is a conventional Level 1 avalanche safety course, considered by the American Avalanche Association to be the minimum level of training for recreationists who travel in avalanche terrain. It covers the essentials of safe trip planning, hazard recognition and evaluation, route selection, decision making, self-rescue/survival strategies, companion rescue, and group rescue.

The course qualifies as an NSP senior patroller elective, but it does not contain rescue content essential for patrollers who may engage in organized avalanche rescue operations.

Prerequisite: Ability to travel through steep, ungroomed terrain under any weather or snowpack conditions

Time commitment: Minimum of 24 hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required texts:

Optional References:

Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel

This is an enhanced Level 1 avalanche course with supplemental organized avalanche rescue content for ski patrollers and personnel of other organizations or agencies who may engage in avalanche search and rescue operations.

Prerequisite: Ability to travel through steep, ungroomed terrain under any weather or snowpack conditions

Time commitment: Minimum of 28 hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required texts:

Optional References:

Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel Upgrade Module

This is a standalone module that upgrades Standard Level 1 Avalanche certification to NSP Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel certification.

Prerequisite: NSP Standard Level 1 Avalanche Course or equivalent within the previous three years

Time commitment: Minimum of four hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required texts:

Optional References:

Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel Refresher

This refresher provides a review and update of knowledge and/or skills for individuals with Level 1 certification more than three years old or as preparation for the NSP Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel course. It may be conducted as a single refresher course, or in a three-year incremental cycle of annual refreshers that includes organized rescue components.

Prerequisite: Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel course; no time limit

Time commitment: Minimum of 12 hours of instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field

Fees: Determined locally

Credentials: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirement: None

Instructor of record: NSP-certified Level 1 or Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required texts:

Optional References:

Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel

This is an enhanced Level 2 course for ski patrollers or personnel of other organizations or agencies engaged in avalanche search and rescue who want to upgrade avalanche safety and rescue skills to a leadership level. It is a prerequisite for NSP avalanche instructor development and for professional-level training offered by other organizations.  

This course covers advanced knowledge and techniques for hazard assessment and route selection, introduces avalanche hazard forecasting and mitigation strategies, and develops organized rescue management and leadership, including strategies for travel to an incident site and conducting both an immediate search and extended operations. It also includes incident/rescue documentation and development of avalanche emergency response plans.

Prerequisites: Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel course or refresher within the previous three years; at least one intervening year of experience is highly recommended.

Time Commitment: Minimum of 32 hours instruction, at least 60 percent spent in the field.

Fees: Determined locally

Credential: NSP Certificate of Achievement

Continuing Education/Refresher Requirements: None

Instructor of Record: NSP-certified Level 2 Avalanche Instructor

Required Text:

Optional Text: