Whether climbing, walking or skiing, in Scotland, the Alps or further afield avalanche awareness is an important skill to increase your safety in enjoying the mountains. There are an increasing number of resources available to the outdoor enthusiast and weather as well as avalanche forecasts are more accurate and easier to get hold of then ever. However these are no substitute for being able to read and interpret the conditions around you and to make your own assessments ‘on the fly’. Below is just some information on courses, resources and information available in the UK.
Mountain Weather Information Service
The MWIS reports are available online and are usually posted in hotels, B&B’s and shops in the UK’s mountainous regions. As the forecast is specifically interpreted and presented for outdoor enthusiasts it provides additional information that isn’t included in most forecasts. Details of precipitation, temperature, wind and cloud cover are all given, with additional details such as freezing level and % cloud cover on the top of Munro’s. As the risk of avalanche is hugely influenced by factors such as recent snow fall, wind strength & direction as well as the thaw/freeze cycle, understanding recent weather patterns as well as the forecast all help to build up a more accurate picture of the risk and will help influence safer route choice. More info at www.mwis.org.uk
Scottish Avalanche Information Service
The SAIS is an excellent resource, not only for finding out the current conditions but also archive conditions, enabling you to build up a picture of the potential avalanche risk. Their daily forecasts of the avalanche, snow, and mountain conditions at the 5 most popular areas of Scotland is available throughout the winter season and again is usually available at ski resorts, outdoor shops and accommodation. If you witness an avalanche then please report it to SAIS to help them build up and communicate the most accurate picture possible. SAIS also have safety information, top tips and further reading lists. More info at www.sais.gov.uk
Glenmore Lodge Avalanche Courses
There are a wide range of avalanche and safety courses across the UK. All Glenmore Lodge winter courses will include elements of avalanche awareness but we have two courses specifically focused on avalanche issues.
Avalanche & Navigation Awareness – 1 Day
Practical and intensive course combining avalanche awareness and evaluation training with your existing navigational skills. Helps to better inform route choice and decision making in the winter hills. Scheduled so you can combine it with other short courses either side of the day.
Avalanche Avoidance – 2 Days
Practical course developing knowledge and skills in order to improve avalanche awareness and the risk assessment process, including safe travel techniques and use of our avalanche transceiver training park simulating rescue of a buried victim. Suitable for skiers / boarders.
Avalanche Transceiver Training Park
An individual’s chances of survival diminish rapidly the longer they are buried in an avalanche. Companion rescue therefore forms the focus of a successful recovery. Increasingly individuals are carrying transceivers which can both transmit and receive a signal on a common frequency. In this way any members of the party not avalanched become rescuers. Groups therefore have a need to be practiced in their use.
Glenmore Lodge is very proud to be home to the world’s first permanent artificial avalanche transceiver training park. The park is specifically designed to help develop the avalanche transceiver skills of winter mountaineers and ski mountaineers of all abilities.
Designed and jointly funded by Back Country Access (BCA), world leaders in avalanche research and product development, the avalanche transceiver training park is approximately 500m2 and involves four avalanche transceivers (simulating victims) being buried under the deep layer of woodchip that covers the park. Every beacon is connected underground to a central control box where one or more units can be turned on to emit a signal that is picked up by the avalanche transceivers worn by trainee rescuers. Almost all avalanche training facilities operating around the world currently rely on snow to hide the transceivers, restricting the use of such training parks to areas or times of permanent snow cover. By creating the world’s first artificial site Glenmore Lodge are enabling individuals, clubs and mountain rescue teams the chance to train all year round.
In opening the park, Shona Robison Minister for Commonwealth Games & Sport commented that: “The training park is a fantastic achievement and offering year-round training in dealing with avalanche scenarios, builds on Glenmore Lodge’s reputation at the forefront in providing world-class training facilities.”
Bruce “Edge” Edgerly, Sales & Marketing Vice President of US-based BCA commented: “The avalanche training park we have helped put in place at Glenmore Lodge is one of the finest anywhere in the world. Well constructed, designed and easy to use, the innovative approach of using an artificial surface is one likely to be recreated in a number of locations around the world.”
Avalanche Awareness Quiz
SpotChecks in Avalanche Awareness is a free computer based quiz aimed at everyone who goes into the hills in winter. It will confirm that you know your stuff, or let you know the areas in which you should do more thinking. It was created by Malcolm Seddon of CAST Education and Ian Sherrington of Glenmore Lodge, with the support of The Catherine Smith Memorial Trust.
The quiz focuses on knowing which slopes or routes carry the greatest risk of avalanche in certain weather conditions and helps you to develop alternative route choices and strategies to minimise the risk to you and your group. Click here for more information and to download the quiz.