Heather Meadows Cafe Open Fri - Mon 11AM - 5:30PM Heather Meadows Cafe

Avalanche Awareness & Backcountry Fundamentals

MEC class picture

Have you been eyeing lines on Shuksan Arm? Are you starting to ski tour or splitboard? Or have you experienced a close call that opened your eyes? Our Avalanche Awareness & Backcountry Fundamentals course provides an avalanche awareness and backcountry safety education for skiers and riders seeking deeper knowledge of snow, weather and terrain as well as travel and rescue techniques. Taught by a committed crew of Mt. Baker-based educators with lifetimes of local backcountry knowledge, this course provides a strong foundation for big mountain backcountry travel in complex terrain.

By the end of this course you will learn to interpret the NWAC avalanche forecast, identify various types of avalanche problems, communicate effectively with your backcountry group and make more informed evaluations and knowledgable decisions about conditions you choose to go out in and route finding in avalanche terrain. You’ll also be introduced to snowpack layer identification and field stability tests. You will also learn the mechanics of an avalanche beacon search while also practicing effective pinpoint probing and strategic shoveling techniques then putting all those skills into practice during three field-based simulated group rescue situations.


• Avalanche Awareness and Backcountry Safety: Applying the Forecast to Decision Making
• Avalanche Terrain Identification: Hazard Avoidance Through Route Selection
• Intro to Field Observations and Identifying the Avalanche Problem
• Case Studies and Analysis of Local Avalanche Accidents
• Understanding Your Online Resources


Field exercises are designed to give students practical experience identifying and evaluating avalanche terrain, introduction to weather and snowpack observations, and practice performing organized response to avalanche accidents.

• Avalanche Terrain Identification
• Route Selection & Hazard Avoidance
• Introduction to Weather & Snowpack Observation Skills
• Multiple Rescue Scenarios


Lift tickets for non-passholders for field components.
Curriculum assumes participants have the ability to ski or snowboard terrain typical to backcountry runs. Students will be accessing more/most difficult (blue/black) named runs within the ski area.


• Backcountry rescue gear such as shovel, probe and beacon
• Outerwear appropriate for field sessions.
• Skis or snowboard, as we will be moving about the ski area during the field sessions.


For winter 21-22, all in-person sessions will be conducted outdoors in the field the mask and distancing protocols in place. Afternoon field sessions meet outside at the Heather Meadows Base Area at 11:00 am and end at 4:00 pm. Exact locations and times will be staggered to facilitate physical distancing. Information about meeting location, additional virtual sessions and e-learning will be provided after course registration.

For the winter of 21-22 we request that all registration be completed online.



14 hours total: 2 days 11am – 4pm, plus 4 hours virtual learning


$135 • Baker passholders
$175 • non-passholders


Minimum 8 / maximum 16 (4 students / 1 instructor per field group)

Session dates for 2021-22

AJanuary 22 & 23
plus two Zoom sessions ahead of field sessions
11-4 pm
BFebruary 26 & 27
plus two Zoom sessions ahead of field sessions
11-4 pm