Safe Travel and Self Rescue Avalanche Course

Here is the complete description for this course. This is a mirror of what is posted as part of the course inside dokeos. All of the instructional details are included - the narrative description, topics, specific objectives, outline, assessment information, resources available, and course material information.

Since this course is presented online at your own pace and has assessments we can guarantee that nothing will be left out. There are no time constraints, no outside factors that may require shortening the course or omitting anything, and no way to complete the course without passing the numerous short assessments. We can guarantee that everything posted below will be exactly as stated here.

Course description

This course covers how to travel safely in potential avalanche terrain and how to carry out a small party self rescue. It began around 2006 as two modules for the Level 1 Avalanche ClassOpens in New Window developed and supported by AlpenProOpens in New Window and offered here in the Avalanche InstituteOpens in New Window. The new, improved and updated version was released in January of 2021.

For Level 1 students this material is a prerequisite for the first field day.

There are 4 separate Learning Paths within the single course unit. (Longer courses are generally divided into separate units referred to as "modules".) The first is an introduction section which will introduce the platform, course programs and this course in particular. The fourth is a short "Wrap-Up" section covering how to learn more and asks for your evaluation of this course. The other two sections cover how to travel safely and rescue fundamentals.

The rescue module emphasis is on small party self-rescue - getting members of your own group out of the avalanche debris to a safe location. The details and management of organized rescues, including formal probe lines, are beyond the scope of this module. However, we do use a video which demonstrates an outside response and introduce the general idea of what is involved. First aid, medical assessment, and what to do after a rescue within the group are touched upon, but for the most part these aspects are also beyond the scope of the module.

This course includes graphics and video clips but there is a lot of material to read, which is broken into short pieces. You will not need to read a lot at one time if you don't wish to. But you do need to read pages and then think about and answer questions in the assessments. This is not a flashy video course which can be watched in a few minutes. It is also not an unstaffed "residual income" course. All questions and issues will also be addressed, either in forums or via dropbox or email.


The first short Learning Path introduces the course and workbook and has a short disclaimer to acknowledge.

The second Learning Path covers these general topics:

  • Safe Travel Protocols
  • Safety Equipment Overview
  • Proper Use of Beacons, Probes and Shovels
  • Other safety equipment
  • Selecting and maintaining safety equipment
  • Conclusion and Case Studies

The third Learning Path covers three general topics:

  • If You Are Caught
  • Small Party Self Rescue
  • Organized Rescues (overview)
  • After the Rescue

The fourth Learning Path wraps up the course and encourages plans for further learning.


Learning Path 1 - Introduction

  • Become familiar with the course and the Dokeos platform
  • Become familiar with the course workbook format and features
  • Know what will be covered and what will not, and why

Learning Path 2 - Safe Travel and Safety Equipment

  • List, describe and follow safe travel protocols
  • List personal safety measures for entering avalanche terrain
  • Explain the basic technical principle behind avalanche beacons
  • List the three phases of beacon searching and explain the method used in each
  • List and explain the three types of probing
  • Dig quickly and efficiently towards a buried object at a given depth
  • Explain how to inspect, care for, and test your beacon, shovel and probe
  • Understand the pros, cons, and principles behind:
    • ABS Systems
    • The Avalung
    • RECCO Reflectors
    • Avalanche Dogs
    • Avalanche Cord

Learning Path 3 - Avalanche Rescue

  • Describe what to do if caught in an avalanche
  • Identify potential dangers to rescuers
  • Describe the organization of a self-rescue
  • List the tasks to be carried out in a rescue
  • Given a group size assign tasks to rescuers
  • Know when and how to call for outside help
  • Be able to explain what the Incident Command System is and why it is important
  • Discuss some of the other skills and training that may be required following a rescue

Learning Path 4 - Conclusion


Learning Path 1 - Introduction - Outline

  • Welcome, Instructions
  • Disclaimer (Quiz/Acknowledgement)
  • About the Workbook
  • Policies

Learning Path 2 - Safe Travel and Equipment - Outline

  • Introduction
  • Traveling Safely
    • Safe Travel Protocols
    • Examples, Good and Bad (additional in Workbook)
    • Personal Precautions
    • Assessments
    • Safety Equipment Overview
  • Avalanche Beacons
    • How Beacons Work (including one video)
    • Pre-trip Checking (including one video)
    • Use of Avalanche Beacons
    • Beacon Searching 101 pdf (by BCA)
    • Selection and Maintenance
  • Probes and Shovels
    • Probe Use
    • Probing 101 pdf (by BCA)
    • Shovel Use
    • Shoveling 101 pdf (by BCA)
    • Selection and Maintenance
    • Assessment on Essential Gear
  • Other Safety Equipment
    • ABS
    • Avalung
    • RECCO
    • Avalanche Dogs
    • Avalanche Cord
    • Assessment on Other Gear
  • Wrap-Up
    • Final Assessment (by Dropbox)
    • Conclusion
    • Case Studies (Workbook)

Learning Path 3 - Avalanche Rescue - Outline

  • Introduction
    • Workbook for Learning Path 3
    • The Big Picture
  • Small Party Self Rescue
    • If You are caught
    • Scene Safety
    • Organization
    • Video excerpt
    • Assessment
  • Organized Rescue
    • Calling for Help
    • Video excerpt
    • Overview of Incident Command System
    • Assessment
  • Wrap-up
    • After the Rescue
    • Final Assessment
    • Conclusion


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.

Most quizzes are taken and scored online, a couple are submitted using the dropbox for review and feedback by an instructor.

Successful completion of this course requires passing all assessments. You will need to get a passing score on each one anyway to continue to the next step. Most students will pass most quizzes on the first try, it should rarely require more than two. We monitor and adjust the passing score to ensure the quiz and the material correlate well.

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. 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 forums available to currently registered students and staff.

Major web browsers are supported, others - including phones - are not. Find a computer and a good place to study without distractions. If you encounter technical problems with Dokeos or with a major browser we will address the problem promptly. If we are unable to we will offer a refund. This does not apply if you are using an unsupported browser or a phone.

We will note that some students have been able to use a phone for our courses or parts of them. It may work. We just will not guarantee that, and if it does not then we will not make much effort at support.

Course material

Most of the materials for this course are self-contained and presented online. Some supplementary material is also provided in the AlpenPro workbook, which goes along with the rest of a workbook for the Level 1 course. A few items are from the Avalanche Center website. Links are provided to external resources where appropriate.

In some sections there are numerous case studies that come mostly from the Incidents database on, which has 1900 reports spanning more than 20 years. Some are integrated online and some additional ones are in the workbook. The use of case studies has received positive feedback from students.

There are two video clips excerpted from "Avalanche Rescue Beacons, A Race Against Time" in Learning Path 2 and two clips from "Beating the Odds" in Learning Path 3. These videos are no longer readily available and the first is now obsolete, the clips we use are relevant short excerpts which we find to be very helpful and engaging.