5 Reasons to Refresh Your Avalanche Knowledge Every Season

Whether you took your last avalanche course this season or last decade, you’re probably due for a refresher. Avalanche knowledge is a lot like learning a language or practicing calculus—if you don’t do it for a while, you start to get pretty rusty pretty fast. And we don’t mean to be dramatic, but in avalanche terrain, knowing your stuff can literally be the difference between life and death.

If reminding you how little calculus you remember didn’t do the trick, here are five more reasons to consider signing up for an avalanche refresher course at the start of the coming season.

Two backcountry skiers look at snow crystals during an avalanche safety course.

Avalanche refresher courses give you an opportunity to ask deeper questions and learn the latest science. Photo: Erik Lambert

1. Your brain is your most essential piece of safety equipment.

You wouldn’t go a season without tuning up your skis, right? Likewise, it pays to polish up your avalanche awareness knowledge ahead of a new season. We know plenty of skiers who are diligent about inventorying their first aid gear and perfecting their repair kit but go years between clinics or courses. Remember: Your equipment can only take you so far when it comes to avalanche terrain. It’s smart decision making and sharp know-how that really keep you safe out there.

2. The science is constantly changing.

Every year, papers come out with new findings about what triggers avalanches and what the most effective rescue methods are. Snow science is still a growing field of study. The best way to make sure you know the latest? Take a refresher course with an avalanche professional on an annual basis.   

Two backcountry skiers with avalanche shovels practice avalanche rescue digging techniques

When seconds matter, having your rescue techniques dialed can make the difference between life and death. Photo: Owen Richards

3. Life-saving rescue depends on muscle memory.

When an avalanche strikes, you only have about 15 minutes to get to buried victims before they run out of oxygen. In high-pressure scenarios—like having to save a friend’s life—stress hormones and racing thoughts impair your critical thinking. Your brain just can’t problem-solve on the fly. Instead, you rely heavily on whatever is committed to rote memory. That means that avalanche rescue techniques only work if everyone in your party is sharp on their skills and can perform a search without thinking twice.

4. There are tons of different techniques for different scenarios.

What if you’re rescuing someone by yourself? What about a multiple-burial situation? The more you know about backcountry skiing or riding, the more specific questions you’ll begin to have. If you took your AIARE 1 course as a novice skier, you may not have known the right questions to ask. Even if you did, you likely didn’t know enough to absorb all the different nuances. Taking an avalanche refresher course every year gives you the opportunity to fill in the gaps as you become more in-tune with your own needs and concerns.

Two backcountry skiers in a snowy landscape look at the slopes in the distance.

Staying up-to-date on your avalanche skills makes you a better mentor. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

5. It makes you a better mentor.

Maybe you have friends who are curious about splitboarding. Maybe you want to backcountry-ski with your son or daughter someday. Part of the beauty of backcountry skiing and riding is that they’re community-based sports with legacies of mentorship and lifelong learning. Hang around long enough, and you’ll find yourself with an opportunity to mentor someone you care about.

The best way to make sure you’re ready when that time comes is to keep your avalanche knowledge fresh and up to date. After all, when you pass on the best information you can, you’re doing your part to keep the next generation of skiers and riders safer than the last.

 

Book your AIARE 1, AIARE 2, or AIARE Avalanche Rescue, or avalanche refresher course today.

How to Properly Store Your Skis or Snowboard Over the Summer

To truly love your gear is to care for it during the times when it’s easy to prioritize (i.e. powder days) and the times when it’s not (i.e. mountain biking season). An easy way to show that love: Store your skis or snowboard with care to ensure your gear outlasts the summer heat.

Before you give your backcountry skis or splitboard one last loving caress for the season, there are a couple of things you should do first. Follow these six tips, and your planks will remain snappy, supple, and damage-resistant for seasons to come.  

skier looks over the edge of a rocky couloir

Spring skiing: Sun, glory—and plenty of mud and core-shots.🤘 Photo: Lucas Mouttet

1. Clean ‘em up.

If you did your fair share of spring skiing, you’ve probably got some mud and pine needles stuck in your bindings. Scrub them down with water and a clean rag. (Try to avoid using soap or detergents on your bindings.)

2. Scrub off any rust.

Use a scouring pad to remove any rust from your edges to prevent corrosion during storage. Fix any obvious burrs. Better yet: Go ahead and get your edges sharpened and base tuned now to avoid long wait times in fall.

A ski tech in a blue jacket tunes a pair of skis

Get your skis professionally tuned over the summer to give yourself a head start on next season. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

3. Treat Your Base.

If you live somewhere with hot summers and dry air, you may want to treat your base before you store your skis or snowboard for the season.

  1. Scrape off any residual wax or skin glue. Wipe down your base with base cleaner.
  2. When the base is clean and dry, fix any core shots.  
  3. Cover the entire length of the base with a thick layer of hot wax. Use a soft storage wax, usually labeled as warm-weather wax or base-prep wax.
  4. Leave the wax on. It will keep your planks from drying out or becoming brittle over the summer. (When the snow starts falling again, scrape off the storage wax and re-wax with a temperature-appropriate product. Voila: You’re ready for your best season yet.)

4. Take off your bindings.

If you want to get serious about improving the longevity of your backcountry gear, store your skis or snowboard separate from your bindings. Bindings create tension through the base, and leaving them on could alter the shape of your skis or board over time. Be sure to store your bindings somewhere they won’t get lost or crushed. You may also want to consider loosening them or turning down the DIN to reduce tension even further.

Skis and snowboards in storage lean against a wall indoors

Store your skis or snowboards in a cool, dry corner where they won’t be knocked over or disturbed during the summer. Photo: Erik Lambert

 5. Find a safe spot.

Don’t store your skis or snowboard in rooftop boxes, attics, or other places that get ultra-hot in the summer. Instead, find a closet or a cool, dry corner of the garage or basement. Make sure your skis aren’t tightly strapped, compressed by locked-together brakes, or hanging from their tips when you put them away; they should be in a neutral, relaxed position. If you keep them in a bag, make sure both your skis and the bag are completely dry first. Otherwise, you risk rust.

6. Wish your winter gear sweet dreams. 

Sing your skis a lullaby, wish them well—whatever you need to do to ease the pain of goodbyes. After all, winter will be here before you know it, and you’ll be reunited with your old friends soon enough.

Want to give you and your skis something to look forward to? Bluebird Backcountry 2021/22 Season Passes are on sale now!

a small bird sits atop a pair of red skis under sunny, blue skies

Your backcountry gear worked hard for you this season. Thank it by storing your skis or snowboard with care. Photo: Logan Mayer via Unsplash