Online Level 1 Avalanche Course

Module 6 Description - Avalanche Terrain

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  • The average student rating for this module, out of 10, is: 8.8
  • The average student rating for this module in relation to others, out of 10, is: 8.6
  • The percentage of students who felt all objectives were met is: 100%
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    • I enjoyed the content and format.
    • I think this was one of the best modules in regards to meeting the objectives.
    • I really feel like I have a much better grasp of what to look for when evaluating terrain.
    • Simple but informative. I learned a lot.
    • I really liked the specific map and picture route finding exercises.
    • Pictures and topo maps were very interesting. Pictures of flag trees were also helpful.
    • Absolutely - it was great!
    • Required time was reasonable.


This is Module 6 of the Level 1 Avalanche Class developed and supported by AlpenPro and offered here in the Avalanche Institute. This is the only module on terrain and routefinding in the Level 1 curriculum

The only co-requisite for this module is Module 1 - Preliminary (or Background) Material. This module is required for Field Day #1 and may be a prerequisite for some advanced modules beyond Level 1.

The focus is on recognizing avalanche terrain and on good routefinding. This is a topic which will be emphasized during both field days, and a skill that continues to be acquired and refined with experience beyond any formal course.


  • Discuss terrain and consequences, including the role of the danger scale
  • List and describe key properties and indicators of avalanche terrain
  • Identify active avalanche paths, terrain traps and inherently safe areas/routes
  • Recognize starting zones, including multiple and secondary ones
  • Explain the role of vegetation in anchoring and in indicating avalanche paths


This module covers four general topics:

  • Terrain and Consequences
  • Slope Angle, Aspect and Profile
  • Vegetation
  • Route Selection and Routefinding

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



Terrain and Consequences

  • Danger Ratings vs. Consequences
  • Snow Climate and Consequences
  • Terrain Factors and Consequences

Slope Angle, Aspect, and Profile

  • Slope Parameters
  • Measuring Slope Angle


  • Vegetation Indications
  • Snowpack Anchoring

Route Selection and Routefinding

  • Routefinding
  • Case Study #1
  • Case Study #2
  • Case Study #3
  • Case Study #4
  • Case Study #5
  • Snowy Torrents Excerpts


  • Review

Human and technical Resources

This module has complete access to human resources and technical support. There are numerous ways to contact an instructor and to interact with other students. The module has its own forum for questions and discussion, there is a dropbox for sending documents (including messages) to other students in the module and/or an instructor, there is a messaging system accessed from the top of the web interface, and there is always email.


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.

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.