Avalanche Safety

 

PE 2286 - Course Syllabus

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Viewing Snow Crystal Through a MicroscopeClass Syllabus
Avalanche & Winter Sport Safety

 

Idaho State University
Department of Sport Science & Physical Education

 

Note that the course website is found: here

 

Summary
Avalanche & Winter Sport Safety

(PE 2286)                       

Ron Watters (wattron@isu.edu)
1 Credit                                        
Spring Semester                           
Workshop Format: Wed, Thu, Fri & Sat

 

Course Website
Additional information about the course and related materials is found at the following URL address:  http://www.ronwatters.com/Avalanche.html

 

Course Instructor, Office and Contact Information
Ron Watters is a professor emeritus with the Physical Education Department and the former director of the ISU Outdoor Program.  He has attended a number of courses offered by the American Avalanche Institute including snow safety, mountain hazards and advanced snow physics.  He has been teaching avalanche safety classes since 1974 and is the author of five outdoor books including Ski Camping:  A Guide to the Delights of Backcountry Skiing which includes material on winter hazards and avalanche safety.

 

Note that he is a part time instructor and does not have office hours like full-time faculty.  Feel free to contact him via email (wattron@isu.edu).  You may reach him at the Outdoor Program Office (236-3912), or feel free to call him at home 232-6857.

 

Course Description
"A study of snow, winter hazards, avalanche safety and rescue.  Topics include basic snow physics, crystal identification, metamorphic processes, factors influencing avalanches, use of transceivers, snow pack evaluation, and avalanche rescue techniques." 

 

Targeted Standards
Targeted Idaho State University Outdoor Education Standards include Standard 1 (Content Knowledge); Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact); and Standard 5 (Experiential Skills and Field Experience).

 


Course Goals and Objectives

Goal 1:  Fundamental Principles of Snow Physics

Objective 1A:  To learn how snow crystals are formed; to recognize basic crystal types; and to distinguish between the differences between precipitated and non-precipitated forms of snow.

Objective 1B:  To become knowledgeable of the metamorphic processes which occur in snow packs; and to appreciate how such processes change snow appearance and the ways in which they affect snow stability.
Goal 2:  Factors Influencing Avalanche Hazard

Objective 2A: To understand the differences between slab and loose snow avalanches, including their component parts, how they develop and their relative dangers.

Objective 2B: To explore five primary factors (and associated sub-factors) which influence avalanche hazard: new snow, old snow, terrain, wind, and temperature.
Goal 3:  Practical Experience in Rescue and Snow Stability EvaluationObjective 3A:  To learn the techniques of self and assisted avalanche rescue; to gain practical experience in the use of transceivers; and to undertake a simulated rescue with the use of probes.

Objective 3B:  To develop rudimentary skills of analyzing snow pits, including identifying crystal types, locating potential weak layers and making stability judgments.

 

Course Content
With increasing numbers of people participating in winter outdoor activities, knowledge of avalanche safety has become essential.  In the Pocatello area alone, eight people have died in avalanche accidents.  This course is designed to help those who use the mountains in the winter to minimize their risk.  Lecture topics include snow crystal identification, snow pack metamorphism, non-precipitated snow, types of avalanches, avalanche safety, avalanche rescue, control of alpine ski areas and factors influencing avalanche activity (slope angle, slope aspect, new snow, old snow, terrain, wind and temperature).  Field sessions will be held at Pebble Creek Ski Area and will cover snow pit analysis, use of transceivers, probing techniques, charting snow
pits, terrain identification, hasty pits, and backcountry safety considerations.

 

Course Itinerary
The course is held in a workshop format, over a 4-day period:

 

Wednesday.  Evening Lecture 1 (3 hours):  Types of clouds, snow crystal growth, identification of snow crystals, non-precipitated snow, effects of rimming, equi-temperature metamorphism, temperature-gradient metamorphism, and snow pack stability.

 

Thursday.  Evening Lecture 2 (3 hours):  Loose snow avalanches, slab avalanches and factors influencing avalanches:  new snow, old snow, terrain, slope angle, slope aspect, wind, temperature, snow surface, snow crystal type and geographic location.

 

Saturday.  Field Session 1 (8 hours):  Held at the base of Pebble Creek Ski Area.  The class will divide into three groups and we'll rotate around through three stations.  In the snow pit station, the instructor will help guide you through the process of digging and analyzing a snow pit: determining snow layers, identifying snow crystals, and performing various stability tests.  At the transceiver station, you'll learn how to use electronic transceivers and conduct transceiver searches.  In the third station, you and members of your group will learn about probing techniques and participate in an organized search for one or more avalanche victims.

 

Sunday.  Field Session 2 (7 hours):  The first three hours of Sunday's field session is held in the classroom.  Topics covered include: self rescue, assisted rescue, avalanche equipment, and terrain hazard identification.  From the classroom, we'll move to an outdoor location.  Most often, the field work is held at the old Rapid Creek Cross-country Ski Area, but the actual location is dependent upon snow conditions.  During this field session, you'll conduct at least three timed transceiver searches.  You'll also dig and analyze a snow pit, identify crystals, determine weak areas, and prepare a special snow pit profile chart.

 

Sunday. Final Test. (1-2 hours):  Upon returning from the field session, you'll have an opportunity to do some additional studying.  A final test on the course will be given late Sunday afternoon.  Generally the test is administered around 4:30 pm, but the actual time can vary depending on how the long field session takes.

 

Text and Readings
No text is required, but material and readings come from the following:

Fredston J. & Fesler D. (1994).  Snow sense: A guide to evaluating snow avalanche hazards.  Anchorage: Alaska Mountain Safety Center.

 

Libbrecht, K. (2006). Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press.

 

Temper, B. (2001).  Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain.  Seattle: The Mountaineers.

 

Other References
On the course webpage (http://www.ronwatters.ocm/Avalanche.html), you'll find links to several helpful resources.  One link will take you to a list of avalanche forecast centers in the regional area.  Another link will take you to a paper which provides a general summary of the common hazards in our area.  Finally, other resources supplementing the class are available in the Outdoor Program library and resource center.  In the library you'll find maps, guidebooks, magazines, videos and catalogs, all of which are available on a free check-out basis.  The Outdoor Program office is open 9 to 5 weekdays.

 

Course Requirements and Attendance Policy
Since this course meets on a workshop basis, attendance is critically important.  All of the field work in the class takes place on the two weekend days planned in the schedule.  Not attending one of the weekend days is equivalent to missing as much as four weeks of a normal class.  Missing that much of a class in which participatory activity is a key component is unacceptable.

 

Thus, you must attend both weekend days to receive credit for this class.  Remember, attendance on two weekend days is mandatory.  If you miss one or more days you can not receive credit for the class.

 

Evaluation Criteria and Grading Scale
College of Education approved percentage scale is utilized:
A = 94 - 100
A- = 90 - 93
B+ = 87 - 89
B = 84 - 86
B- = 80 - 83
C+ = 77 - 79
C = 74 - 76
C- = 70 - 73
D+ = 67 - 69
D = 64 - 66
F = Below 63

 

The final grade for the course is based on the following four components:  1) the completion of Saturday's field session; 2) the completion of three timed transceiver searches;  2) the preparation of a snow pit profile chart; and 4) the course final exam. 

 

An important part of this course is the practical experience that you gain from participating in the field sessions.  The grading system used for field work is pass/no pass.  If you attend the field sessions and hand in the snow pit chart, you'll receive a score of 100%.

 

Field work and the snow pit chart are 35% of your total grade.  The final exam is 65% of the total grade.  Here is an example of how the final grade would be calculated for someone who attends all of the field sessions, hands in the snow pit chart, and receives a score of 80% on the final exam:

 

Sample Calculation of Final Grade:

Saturday's Field Session:  100%
Transceiver Searches:  100%
Snow Pit Chart:  100%
Final Exam Score:  80%

 

Average of the field session and snow pit chart:  100%

Final Grade = (.35 x Field/Snow Pit Score) + (.65 x Final Exam Score)
Final Grade = (0.35 x 1.00)+(0.65 x .80)
Final Grade Percentage = 87%


Final Grade = B+ (Using the chart above)

 

Physical Activity Required in the Class
The two field sessions which are held on Saturday and Sunday require some physical exertion.  On Saturday, you will be doing a simulated rescue, probing for a buried dummy.  It requires walking in deep snow and pushing a metal probe in and out of the snow pack.  Also on Saturday, you will be walking around in snow using an avalanche transceiver to locate another buried transceiver.

On Sunday, you will be practicing with the transceiver again and will be spending more time walking up and down hills through the snow.  In addition to transceiver practice, you will be digging a snow pit and running some snow stability tests.  Snow pits take a lot of effort, and while working in the pits, it can be uncomfortable if it is cold or snowy.

 

Be aware that walking in snow is physically difficult, and you should be in reasonable shape.  Winter is a demanding time of year.  The weather can range from sub-zero temperatures--and it can be snowing or even raining.  Be sure to wear appropriate clothing.

 

Acknowledgement of Risk
This is a course which involves physical activity in the outdoors.  It's important that you understand that there are risks involved whenever you participate in outdoor activities.  While we try to provide a safe environment, we can not guarantee your safety.  In particular, there are inherent risks that cannot be eliminated without drastically altering the character of this activity.  The same elements that help create the unique character of this activity may also be the cause of loss or damage to your equipment, accidental injury, illness, or in extreme cases, permanent trauma, disability or death.  By participating in this class, you acknowledge that these risks exist and you and your heirs agree not to bring legal action should a problem occur.  We ask that you help the instructor keep the class safe by watching for potentially dangerous situations and informing the instructor and fellow class members.  You are under no obligation to remain in the class.  If at any point, prior or during the class, you decide that you would rather not accept the risks, just notify the instructor and you'll be allowed to drop the class.

 

Academic Dishonesty
Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and cheating.  For more information refer to the ISU Student Handbook found on the following webpage: www.isu.edu/references/st.handbook/conduct.html#CONDUCT.  For definitions of cheating and plagiarism, see the ISU Faculty and Staff Handbook (Part 6, Sec. IX, page 6.9.1) found on the webpage: www.isu.edu/fs-handbook/part6/6_9/6_9.html

 

Assessment Consent
A part of institutional and state outcomes assessment requirements, and state and national program accreditation requirements, the College of Education collects copies of performance assessments and assessment data for the purposes of individual and program accountability.  By enrolling in this course, you consent to have your assessment information collected and utilized by the College of Education for these purposes and as part of credibility studies supporting the validity, consistency, and fairness of the assessments. To protect your confidentiality, when summary reports are published or discussed in conferences, no information will be included that would reveal your identity.  If photographs, videos, or audiotape recordings of you obtained from your performance assessments are used to demonstrate program accountability, then your identity will be protected or disguised, or we will ask you for permission to disclose your identity in order to give you credit for your performance. We may disclose the assessment information we collect about you under other circumstances as permitted or required by law. Assessment data are maintained and disclosed in accordance with Idaho State University policies to insure compliance with the provisions of the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended.  If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Peter Denner, Assistant Dean, at 282-4230 or dennpete@isu.edu.

 

Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The Sports Science and Physical Education program is committed to providing classroom and field environments in which all students may achieve their potential.  If you have a disability or think you have a disability (physical, learning, hearing, vision, psychiatric) which may need reasonable accommodation, please contact the ADA Disabilities & Resource Center as early as possible.  The Center is located in Room 123 of Graveley Hall on the lower Idaho State University Campus.  Its phone number is 282-3599.

 

Evaluation of Course and Instructor
College of Education course evaluation forms will be distributed at the end of the class at which time, you'll have an opportunity to evaluate the course and the instructor. 

 

Course Schedule – Aligned with Course Goals & Objectives

 

Course Segment

Topics / Skills

Objectives

Wednesday.  Evening Lecture 1 (3 hours)

Types of clouds, snow crystal growth, identification of snow crystals, non-precipitated snow, effects of rimming, equi-temperature metamorphism, temperature-gradient metamorphism, and snow pack stability.

Objectives 1A, 1B

Thursday.  Evening Lecture 2 (3 hours)

Loose snow avalanches, slab avalanches and factors influencing avalanches:  new snow, old snow, terrain, slope angle, slope aspect, wind, temperature, snow surface, snow crystal type and geographic location.

Objectives 2A, 2B

Saturday.  Field Session 1 (8 hours)

Held at the base of Pebble Creek Ski Area.  The class will divide into three groups and we'll rotate around through three stations.  In the snow pit station, the instructor will help guide you through the process of digging and analyzing a snow pit: determining snow layers, identifying snow crystals, and performing various stability tests.  At the transceiver station, you'll learn how to use electronic transceivers and conduct transceiver searches.  In the third station, you and members of your group will learn about probing techniques and participate in an organized search for one or more avalanche victims.

Objectives 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B

Sunday.  Field Session 2 (7 hours)

The first three hours of Sunday's field session is held in the classroom.  Topics covered include: self rescue, assisted rescue, avalanche equipment, and terrain hazard identification.  From the classroom, we'll move to an outdoor location.  Most often, the field work is held at the old Rapid Creek Cross-country Ski Area, but the actual location is dependent upon snow conditions.  During this field session, you'll conduct at least three timed transceiver searches.  You'll also dig and analyze a snow pit, identify crystals, determine weak areas, and prepare a special snow pit profile chart.

Objectives 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B

 

 

Alignment of Standards, Objectives and Assessment Methods

Alignment of Standards, Objectives, and Assessment Methods

Program Standard or Goal

Course Objectives

Assessment Method

 

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Objective 1A: To learn how snow crystals are formed; to recognize basic crystal types; and to distinguish between the differences between precipitated and non-precipitated forms of snow.

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Objective 1B:  To become knowledgeable of the metamorphic processes which occur in snow packs; and to appreciate how such processes change snow appearance and the ways in which they affect snow stability.

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact)

Objective 2A: To understand the differences between slab and loose snow avalanches, including their component parts, how they develop and their relative dangers.

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact)

Objective 2B: To explore five primary factors (and associated sub-factors) which influence avalanche hazard: new snow, old snow, terrain, wind, and temperature.

Written Test

Standard 1 (Content Knowledge)

Standard 5 (Experiential Skills and Field Experience)

Objective 3A:  To learn the techniques of self and assisted avalanche rescue; to gain practical experience in the use of transceivers; and to undertake a simulated rescue with the use of probes.

Field Assessments

Standard 1 (Content Knowledge)

Standard 5 (Experiential Skills and Field Experience)

Objective 3B:  To develop rudimentary skills of analyzing snow pits, including identifying crystal types, locating potential weak layers and making stability judgments.

Field Assessment Including Three Timed Transceiver Searches

Snow Pack Analysis Chart (Completed in the field)

Written Test




 

 

 

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