Avalanche Safety Training
The Avalanche Programme is designed for people working in the mountain environment in a professional capacity. This could include ski patrollers, ski area staff, mountain guides, outdoor leaders, teachers, police, armed forces personnel and search and rescue teams. The courses are also open to the public who are interested in gaining further knowledge of avalanche safety.
The Avalanche Programme is jointly administered by Otago Polytechnic and the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and is the nationally recognised training programme for professionals working in the field. The New Zealand courses are modelled on the Canadian Avalanche Association professional training programme, both of which are recognised at an international level. See attached article from the CAA on equivalency by Ian Tomm and Clair Isrealson
The courses are offered at introductory (Avalanche Safety Stage 1) and advanced levels (Avalanche Safety Stage 2 and Diploma in Avalanche Studies). 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 emphasised in the field work.
Otago Polytechnic also offers a full-time, twenty week programme Certificate in Avalanche Safety & Snowsport Instructing (ski) or (snowboard) which has the stage 1 avalanche safety qualification embedded within it. This programme is designed for students looking to gain a wider range of skills or those who may not have extensive experience in the mountain environment.
The full-time programme runs from mid May to early October and is based in Wanaka.
Otago Polytechnic also has a full-time, eighteen week programme based
at Cardrona Alpine Resort, Certificate
in Snowsport Instructing (ski) or (snowboard), for those
wishing to become instructors.
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. In the field student/instructor ratios do not exceed 6:1, which allows for a considerable degree of personal attention.
This is an introductory course for people involved in the safety of alpine recreational activities and in the collection of snowpack data. At the completion of the course, participants should have the basic skills to:
In order to be eligible for the above course participants should:
In order to successfully complete the course, participants will be required to demonstrate sound weather and snowpack observation techniques, knowledge of avalanche terrain and phenomena and effectively perform rescue skills within a specified timeframe.
Course time is 6½ days from 8am Sunday - Saturday midday inclusive. Access to residential course venues is available from midday on the Saturday prior to course commencement.
All inquiries to:
This programme has been developed in response to increasing demand for skilled staff who can take responsibility for snow safety programmes in a variety of contexts or teach snow safety programmes.
Embedded in the programme is the NZ Mountain Safety Council’s Avalanche Stage 2 award which is a requirement for many positions in the industry. Further compulsory courses and electives are then completed to gain the Diploma. Click here to see how the courses relate to each other.
Avalanche practitioners must be able to gather relevant snow, weather and avalanche information, apply their knowledge in a range of contexts and exercise appropriate decision-making skills to minimise the risk of an avalanche incident or accident. Advanced practitioners manage programmes protecting the safety of others in ski area operations, guiding, roading and instructional sectors of the avalanche safety industry.
Students graduate with an Otago Polytechnic Diploma in Avalanche Studies at level 6.
The Stage 2 part of the programme is now based on the Canadian Avalanche Association’s Stage 2 qualification, to ensure consistency with international standards, and uses Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) resources.
The programme includes a considerable component of on-site experience to ensure that students can apply their skills in varying situations, and experience a wide range of snow pack conditions.
Students will generally be employed in the industry while studying, so a very flexible programme has been developed with students able to access by distance as much of the learning as possible and to work at their own pace.
The Diploma in Avalanche Studies is 125 credits, and equivalent to one years fulltime study:
The following five courses need to be successfully completed prior to enrolling for the Integrated Practical Assessment:
You are able to commence the programme at any time. In the first instance you need to contact Barbara Emmitt, the Programme Administrator to discuss your individual “Path of Study” and how to get started. Barbara is based at the Cromwell office of Otago Polytechnic and can be contacted by phoning 03 445 9932 or 0800 765 9276 or by email email@example.com .
The Stage 2 Programme
are expected to complete each of the above courses within a nine month
period – you can study them one at a time or concurrently. We
suggest that you make a start on the Applied Snow Studies mentored logbook
straight after completion of Stage 1. Click
here to download the templates. You can start on this without enrolling,
but you will not be allocated a TSA or be able to submit any work until
you actually complete the enrolment process. It is recommended that
you plan on completing your theory courses in the quieter times of the
year (spring & autumn) when you and your TSA may have fewer industry
You will need access to online computing facilities to undertake the distance learning packages. If required Otago Polytechnic has Community Learning Centres across Otago including, Cromwell and Queenstown with online facilities and support available for students undertaking distance learning. Barbara can provide you with more information.
Block Course Dates
Peter Bilous, based at the Wanaka Campus is the Programme Manager and any technical queries should be directed to him in the first instance—his contact details are 03 443 5371 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (preferably).
* If block courses are held at a residential venue, there will be an additional cost for accommodation, meals, etc. There may also be an extra charge for lift passes for non season pass holders.
Students enrolling in 0.25 Equivalent Full Time Study or more may be
eligible for Student Loan for the course fees. This criteria is met
by enrolling in The Applied Snow Studies and Three Theory Courses at
the same time.You need to apply with Studylink on 0800 88 99 00 or via
their website www.studylink.govt.nz
Daily field observations and field trips require participants to spend extended periods of time in the snow. Students are required to bring:
|All inquiries to:
PO Box 16, Cromwell, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 445 9932 · Freephone 0800 765 9276
Fax: +64 3 445 9909
CLICK FOR CURRENT COURSE DATES, LOCATIONS & FEES