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Otago Polytechnic - New Zealand Mountain Safety Council

Avalanche 1 Course



Avalanche I


Course Objectives:
This Avalanche Programme is jointly administered by Otago Polytechnic and the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and is the nationally recognized training programme for professionals working in the field. The New Zealand courses are modeled on the Canadian Avalanche Association professional training programme which are recognized at an international level.

The course curriculum has been developed over many years and is reviewed annually to ensure that the course content remains current and to the highest possible standard. This programme is a mix of both classroom and field work with observation techniques and application of observations being emphasized in the field.

This is an introductory course for people involved in the safety of alpine recreational activities or in the collection of snow pack data. At the successful completion of the course, participants should have the basic skills to:

  • recognize avalanche terrain and identify safe route selection
  • understand the formation and classification of avalanches
  • identify and record current weather conditions
  • identify and interpret snow crystals and structures
  • carry out snow pack analysis and record snow profiles
  • contribute to an avalanche search and rescue operation
  • improve personal safety awareness

In order to successfully complete the course, participants will be required to demonstrate sound weather and snow pack observation techniques, and a knowledge of avalanche terrain and phenomena.

The course instructors are specialists in avalanche safety with both local and international experience. Where possible they are chosen on the basis of their experience specific to the course venue. Student / instructor ratios do not exceed 6:1 which allows for a considerable degree of personal attention.

What are the entry requirements?
In order to be eligible for the above course participants should be:

  • familiar with, and experienced in, the mountain environment
  • competent intermediate skiers / snowboarders with basic ski touring experience
  • familiar with recognized ski area etiquette

Equipment Required

Personal Gear

Daily field observations and field trips require participants to spend extended periods of time in the snow. Students are required to bring:

  • spare warm clothing
  • weather-proof outer garments for protection from wind, rain and snow
  • protective eye wear
  • spare hats and gloves
  • warm footwear
  • day pack

Ski / Snowboard Equipment

Participants must be prepared for full day back country field excursions which involve traveling uphill and downhill in variable conditions. Students will therefore need ski / snowboard equipment appropriate for ski-touring activities, including skins or snowshoes for boarders, and BE FAMILIAR with their use.

  • A backpack suitable for day excursions.
  • Each student must provide their own avalanche transceiver (457 kHz), portable snow shovel and collapsible probe.

Course participants must supply their own observation equipment. This must include the following:

  • hand lens (8x magnification)
  • snow crystal screen/grid
  • two dial stem thermometers
  • folding ruler (approximately 2 meters) or a locking tape measure
  • snow saw (approximately 300 mm) (optional)
  • pocket calculator
  • 2 pencils
  • compass

The hand lens and dial stem thermometers are available for purchase from Otago Polytechnic, prior to courses. There will be no sales at the courses. Indicate your requirements on an attached sheet and include payment with your registration so the items can be forwarded to you with your pre course material.


2012 Domestic annual indicative fee : NZ$2,620.00 for a non-residential course. Additional charges for lift passes and accommodation vary with location.
International annual indicative fee : NZ$TBA for a non residential course. Additional charges for lift passes and accommodation vary with location.
Course Date : TBA
Venue : Temple Basin Ski Area


Enquiries and Bookings:
To enquire or book a "Avalanche 1 Course" you can contact the OTAGO POLYTECHNIC (who provide this specialized Course) at:

Otago Polytechnic
School of Adventure
PO Box 16
New Zealand
Phone: 0800 765 9276 (Within New Zealand)
Phone: +64 3 445 9932 (International Calls)
Fax: +64 3 445 9909
E-mail: bemmitt@tekotago.ac.nz Otago Polytechnic
Website: http://www.otagopolytechnic.ac.nz/programmes/short-courses.html