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19th/21st of January : just another Snow and Avalanche Awareness course ?
Posted 2018 08 10 by Fred
Yes, yet another one…
But don’t panic, I can almost read your mind: you think about the long hours sitting in a classroom, fighting against the sleep, the hypnotic Power Points one after the other and all the scientific mumbo-jumbo intoxicating your brain cells that are just craving for some pure, fresh mountain air!
We’ve decided to re-think the way to do it.
Important: even though Victor and I are French, we don’t pretend to make a revolution.
Here’s the deal: every single year, unfortunately, there are avalanche accidents, and significantly often it involves people who have some kind of snow and avalanche education. So there might be something wrong in the way we teach it, right? We thought it was time to get rid of our certitudes and come up with something new!
To be fair, we’ve had some teachers during our guide education who were walking this path, and there is no doubt that they are the ones who planted the seed in our minds.
To be even fairer, we have to say that meeting Bjørn Michaelsen has been the start of the whole thing.
Bjørn is Norwegian, Geographer of education, and teaches mountain skiing, cycling, and outdoor activities in one of those fairy tales institutions you only find in Scandinavia. A school where young adults are living the dream of getting better at what they like the most during 6 months to a year. As a recognized professional, he also supports the Norwegian Avalanche Warning Program, the road avalanche safety in his region (if you’ve ever been driving close to the 70th parallel in winter you know what it means), and he is now a central figure in the development of a Norwegian Avalanche Center in Tromsø.
The only medal he’s missing is the one guides are wearing, but after a day skiing with him in the mountains, you’ll forget that detail.
Well, a guy that you can trust.
Since 1992 he’s been teaching professionally ski, snow and avalanche awareness, in varied courses, from a weekend to a whole year. He created the program called “Ski og Skred”, the International Ski & Avalanche Course in 2002 and started the Ski and Avalanche Workshops (Norway 2002, and internationally in Davos since 2010).
During those years he hasn’t had any fatal avalanche accidents together with his students.
He might, by modesty, give that explanation, and of course, we all know that luck has a big part to play in our activities. Nature = Chaos, that’s a fact.
But the method is good, making a lot of sense. Therefore, we’ve decided to join Ski og Skred, so that we can introduce to the French Alps, in Val Cenis, a concept that has changed peoples approach to the mountains in Norway and Davos, Switzerland, where there is a similar collaboration between the Swiss Alpine Club and a local Mountain Guide.
But let’s come back to our proposition!
Usually, the theory is THE foundation, this common and recognized language that allows us to estimate the situation and make our plans.
And when I say “theory” I mean everything that has to do with our subject: snow, avalanches, weather, human factors (i.e psychology) and so on…
We start usually with this because we like to speak the same language, we think this is necessary.
And we are right to think this way, it’s our academic tradition.
But true avalanche understanding is a lifelong process that is quite hard to force into someone’s head, especially during just a few days.
Our experience, our travels and the people we’ve met gave us three certitudes about the way we think mountain skiing and the associated risk, this language :
-there are many different languages.
-learning a new one might take some time...
-The terrain is the best place to do that.
The concept of this weekend will push you out of your comfort zone and make you feel weird for a while, but no worries, it won’t last for long!
We will not guide you but follow you on the tours that you will have planned with your group (with a bit of our supervision…). The goal won’t be a peak whatever it costs, but finding good snow, talking, exchanging ideas on the way, observing and talking again, so that every step has a meaning. This is what we call “transparent guiding”: the leader explain his choices, and initiates the discussion if no one else does it in the group. On those days, our job will be to get you to talk more and explain your decisions, as well as pointing out important details you might have missed, of course!
Back to the « classroom » in the evening, we’ll meet the other groups to compare our experiences and make new, and better plans for the next day’s tour.
The shared observations and experiences will take the discussions to interesting subjects, no doubt. This more theoretical approach, being linked to the reality of what happened during the day will be clearer, more understandable.
This way, you will experience an interactive way to make good decisions whatever level you’re at. A great way to keep going towards autonomy with greater safety!
In Norway and Switzerland, many participants attend year after year.
Because it’s not a normal course, the conditions are never the same and you learn new things every year, always looking for the best snow, as safe as possible.
We’re waiting for you in Val Cenis, 19/21st January 2019
(All right, there ’is some French, some English, Swedish and Norwegian but we’ll make sure that everybody communicates !)
In the meantime, we’re fine-tuning our PowerPoints and warming up the projector.