Online Level 1 Avalanche Course

Module 4 Description - Avalanche Weather 1

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This is Module 4 of the Level 1 Avalanche Class developed and supported by AlpenPro and offered here in the Avalanche Institute. It covers all of the weather material for the Level 1 course.

The only co-requisite for this module is Module 1 - Preliminary (or Background) Material. This module is a prerequisite for several others and is required for Field Day #1 of the Level 1 course or the shorter Awareness version.

The module covers key observables, climates, local and topographic weather effects, and locating and interpreting suitable forecast products. The emphasis is on applied topics with a little background theory to provide insight and understanding and to build a basis for further studies.


  • Explain why winds in the atmosphere differ from winds at the surface
  • List key observables and explain how they can contribute to snowpack instability
  • Describe the differences in typical winter weather between different climate zones
  • Identify and describe several local and/or topographic weather effects
  • Locate and interpret general (non-specialized) weather forecast products
  • Interpret the contents of a mountain weather forecast


This module covers four general topics:

  • Key Observables
  • Climates
  • Local / Topographic Effects
  • Forecast Products and Interpretation

Each of these is broken down further into sub-topics within the course, the Outline on this page shows more detail.


Welcome, Instructions
Wind, Energy, Precipitation

Key Observables - Wind

  • Origins of Wind
  • Wind Transport of Snow
  • Distribution of Windblown Snow

Key Observables - Energy Balance

  • Mechanisms of Heat Transfer
  • Radiation Experiments
  • Energy Balance at the Snow Surface

Key Observables - Precipitation

  • Types of Precipitation
  • Ice Crystals
  • Optional Exercise
  • New Snowfall

Snow Climates

  • Climate
  • Climate Comparison

Local Weather Effects

  • Orographics
  • Inversions
  • Convergence Zones
  • Other Localized Weather

Forecast Products and Interpretation

  • Weather Forecasts
  • NWS Forecasts (US)
  • Wx Planning Sheet


  • Final Case Study
  • Conclusion
  • Review

Human and technical Resources

This is probably the most interactive module in the Level 1 course in terms of  feedback from instructors. Several assessments in this section are submitted using the drop box for review by an instructor, who will provide feedback via the drop box comment feature. A module forum is available to post any questions or comments. 


There are quizzes incorporated into this course which allow students to check their understanding of the material. Quizzes may be taken as many times as desired, either to obtain a passing score or just to attempt to ultimately get a perfect score.

Several assessments in this section require the student to submit something using the drop box. These are reviewed by an instructor and feedback is provided via the comment feature of the drop box. Other quizzes are taken and scored online.

Successful completion of this module requires passing all assessments.

Course material

Most of the materials included in this module are from a workbook developed and used by AlpenPro. A few items are from the Avalanche Center website. Links are provided to external resources where appropriate.