Education Vacation

Avalanche Operations Level 2

Once again we find ourselves in flying overseas in search of greater knowledge. The whole purpose of our trip was to study the complex science of avalanches with the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) and finish our Avalanche Operations Level 2. To many people, this one-month ski trip to Canada would look more like a vacation but we found out quickly that this education vacation soon became more serious than we had hoped for.

What is the CAA training program?

The CAA Operations program is designed to educate professionals in the industry. Whether they are on the guide stream, avalanche forecasters, park service or work in ski areas.

It starts with Level 1 training which is intensive seven- to the eight-day technical training course is comprised of approximately 40% theory and classroom work, and 60% practical application and fieldwork. Once that is finished you have the opportunity to progress to Level 2.

CAA Level 2

The CAA Avalanche Operations Level 2 Program is an advanced program for people who work full-time with avalanche safety and control operations.

Participants must have at least 100 days of operational field experience making and collecting weather, snowpack, and avalanche activity observations before applying. This generally requires at least two years of active operational field work and experience under the mentorship of CAA Professional Members.

Level 2 consists of 3 different modules.

  • Module 1: Four-day classroom-based theory on snow science

  • Module 2: Four-day field-based programs that involve the application of Module 1 principles into real life operational decision making and risk management.

  • Module 3: Module 3 is a seven-day course where students’ skills and competency in both technical knowledge and practical application of Level 2 concepts are evaluated. Successful completion of Module 3 results in a Level 2 certification by the CAA.

Avalanche danger is a big factor of winter guiding, and we want to be on top of things! CAA is world recognized for their good work in the avalanche industry by setting high standards and the quality of their training program, and that is the reason why we are here.

Finally, when the never-ending Module 2 was finished at the beginning of February, we had some “time off” to go skiing before the start of Module 3, our final exam. Our time off mostly involved battling through the 300 pages of the Avalanche handbook, course materials, and research papers. From time to time we would get out for some skiing. When I say skiing I mean touring a little bit and then spend the rest of the day digging a hole, 2m by 2m down to the ground taking temperature, performing stability tests and looking at different snow crystals in a magnifying loupe.