Avalanche Science FAQ
General Program Information
Who should enroll in this program
Anyone pursuing work that involves travel in and around avalanche terrain. Typical students will likely be working in a related field, currently involved in avalanche work, or are aspiring to enter the avalanche work industry.
Example students could be a ski patroller who wishes to become more involved with snow safety work, a recent grad of CMC’s Outdoor Recreation Leadership or Ski Area Operations programs, or a research program field-data-technician who needs to travel in or around avalanche terrain as a part of their job.
What kind of job will the program prepare me for?
Here is a partial list of identified avalanche work industries:
- Ski area snow safety program worker/ski patroller
- University technician/research assistant
- Government technician/researcher (USDA, USDOI, DOD, DOE, state, municipal, etc.)
- Regional/local avalanche forecaster
- Transportation avalanche forecaster
- Mountain Guide or Ski Guide (alpine climbing, human powered or mechanized ski guiding)
- Snowmobile Guide
- Educator (avalanche safety, K-12, secondary, technical, etc.)
- College student (preparation for transfer/pursuing degree or research project)
- Environmental scientist
- Rescue provider (fire/law/EMS/search and rescue)
- Military specialist
What will I get out of this program?
The Avalanche Science Program intends to develop graduates who are solidly prepared to continue in, or enter, a role as a snow-worker. They will have a strong background in the fundamental concepts and skills required to work safely in and around potentially hazardous avalanche terrain.
For example, a typical program graduate will not be qualified to enter work as an Avalanche Forecaster but would have a very strong foundation to progress into that role. They will likely need significant additional time, mentorship, and experience to evolve into a snow-safety leadership position. Our program will provide a solid (and heavily safety-focused) foundation upon which that expertise can grow.
Program graduates will receive a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency as a Snow, Weather, and Avalanche field technician from Colorado Mountain College. We are also preparing to offer American Avalanche Association Pro 1 Certification to our program participants.
Career and Technical Education (Certificate of Occupational Proficiency) certificate programs provide technical training in specific skills. The curriculum usually includes job skills training and limited general education courses. However, you will be asked to demonstrate basic reading, writing and math skills before entering certain certificate programs.
Your proficiency may affect the sequence of courses in which you may enroll and may extend the time required to complete your program. Individual programs and courses have certain physical and academic standards which you may be required to meet before you are admitted to that program or enrolled in that course.
How long is the program and what courses will I take?
The program requires two winter-seasons of coursework to complete; a minimum of 21 credit hours. Courses include:
- SAO 162 Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician Program Intro (3 credits, 75 contact hours)
- MET 150 General Meteorology (4 credits, 75 contact hours)
- SAO 163 Snow and Avalanches I (2 credits, 30 contact hours)
- SAO 164 Snow Weather and Avalanche Observations I (2 credits, 60 contact hours)
- SAO 165 Snow and Weather Forecasting I (1 credit, 22.5 contact hours)
- SAO 180 Field Internship (1-7 credits, internship, 45 hours per credit)
- SAO 263 Snow and Avalanches II (3 credits, 45 contact hours)
- SAO 264 Snow Weather and Avalanche Observations II (2 credits, 60 contact hours)
- SAO 265 Snow and Weather Forecasting II (1 credit, 22.5 contact hours)
- SAO 266 Avalanche Safety Ops (1 credit, 22.5 contact hours)
- SAO 279 Snow, Weather and Avalanche Field Technician Portfolio Seminar (1 credit, 22.5 contact hours)
How big is the program; how many students?
We have capped program enrollment to 12 students per year, although there will be room in specific courses for non-program students who meet entry requirements. We want to keep enrollment small in order to provide low student to instructor ratios for enhanced learning and for safety reasons during field- work in and around avalanche terrain.
Who are the program faculty?
Experts in the field, Dr. Ethan Greene, Dr. Kelly Elder, Brian Lazar, John Snook, John MacKinnon, and Roger Coit are lined up to teach. This list will change as we finalize our program offerings and we build the instructor team. We are committed to engaging only highly qualified instructors who have significant experience in the subject matter.
What’s a Hybrid Course?
Hybrid courses combine face-to-face instruction with scheduled meeting times and online instruction, or other activities conducted outside the classroom.
How will the classes be scheduled?
Intensive, on-campus sessions will be held between late August and April 1. These live sessions on cam- pus will last 4 to 9 days on three separate occasions.
During the rest of the program year, students will continue to engage in coursework online. Some courses will continue to meet online in a “live” format at scheduled times each week and others will progress as independent work on a flexible schedule.
What is a “portfolio-based” educational model?
“A student [learning] portfolio is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement;
(2) determining whether students have met learning standards or other academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation; (3) helping students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners; and (4) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other docu- mentation.” Portfolio Definition – The Glossary of Education Reform, www.edglossary.org/portfolio/
The Avalanche Science Program will engage students in an ongoing process of portfolio development throughout the two year curriculum, culminating in a final project assembly in SAO 279 “Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Technician Portfolio Seminar.” We feel strongly that this model will promote an integrated learning experience for our students that will serve them well into their careers.
Please have a look at this excellent reference article on “portfolio-based” learning from IDEA.
Do I have to complete the full two years in a row?
Priority will be given to students pursuing the full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician running over two consecutive winter seasons. The program will run a single cohort of students (a class of up to 12) each school year, beginning in late August and ending April 1st.
Some students may choose to take a break between the two program years but must have authorization from the Program Faculty Lead in order to return and complete the full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency (depending on the duration of absence, students may be required to re-take previous courses).
Do I have to enroll in the entire certificate program or can I just take some courses that interest me?
Students may engage the program variously depending upon their needs. Some students will want to take selected course offerings only and may do so provided they can demonstrate appropriate prior knowledge, experience, and/or qualifications and there is room in the class/es. Students wishing to enroll in select courses only must receive prior approval from the Program Faculty Lead.
Is there any flexibility for my schedule? I work when it snows. (Hybrid Courses)
Yes! We are building the Avalanche Science Program classes as hybrids, blends of on-site and online learning, that will be scheduled with the wintertime worker in mind.
For example, most program courses will require an initial session or two on-campus in the fall and early winter, followed by online work, and then a follow-up, on-campus session for further instruction and assessment. Please refer to the program course schedule for specifics.
Can I take other courses at CMC while enrolled in the Avalanche Science Program?
Generally yes, but you will need to work with an advisor to ensure that the additional courses you would like to take work with the Avalanche Science Program schedule.
How does this program compare to the usual Level 1, 2, and 3 avalanche safety courses?
Our program is different in breadth, and very different in duration of study and fieldwork than existing avalanche safety courses. Most of the curriculum objectives are the same as the Level 1, 2 and 3 avalanche safety courses but with added coursework in avalanche forecasting, meteorology, and internship opportunities.
The difference in the duration of the program is significant with the total course hours required for the Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician certificate (475 hours) far exceeding the total instructional hours that comprise the typical Level 1, 2, 3 course progression.
How does the Avalanche Science Program curriculum compare to the new American Avalanche Association (AAA) Pro and Rec training?
The AAA is currently undergoing a change in the US avalanche training guidelines from the former Level 1, 2, and 3 progression to a “split-track” progression that separates professional avalanche workers from recreationalists after initial courses. The new format will include Recreational levels 1 and 2 and Professional levels 1 and 2 moving forward in 2017/18.
The Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician certificate within the Avalanche Science Program at CMC is considered a professional-level training and compares with the AAA Pro track. Our program will substantially meet or exceed the AAA Pro 1 and 2 guidelines.
We are currently applying to become an AAA Pro Course provider and we intend to offer the Pro 1 (and possibly the Pro 2) evaluation and certification to those students who are interested.
Program Location and Logistics
Where will the courses be held?
The program is only being offered at the Leadville Campus of Colorado Mountain College.
Do I need to be in Leadville for the entire winter?
No, we have developed the program to accommodate both local students as well as those who may not live in our area. With the hybrid course format (blends of on-site and online learning), students will meet for 3 intensive on-campus sessions per winter and then remain engaged, completing online coursework back home as guided by their instructors.
Is there housing and food available for the on-campus sessions?
On Campus accommodation: The Leadville campus will be holding a number of rooms in the Mountain View Residence Hall for Avalanche Science Program students who need a place to stay while here for the on-campus sessions. We will also have meal plans available for the Coronado Café (see section on Pro- gram Costs.)
Off Campus accommodation: There are also local lodging options for visiting students who wish to stay in the area during the on-campus sessions. A good place to start would be Lake County Visitors or the Leadville Chamber of Commerce.
How much will the program cost?
The full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency for Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician will require a minimum of 21 credits of coursework to complete. You should consider program costs to be a combination of per-credit tuition rate, any applicable college fees, individual course charges, program uniform cost, as well as any room and board expenses (if you choose to stay on campus and/or eat at our cafeteria). The information provided in this document is meant as an estimate only.
Tuition: Below is a general estimate on program tuition costs, please refer to the college’s tuition schedule for specific tuition rates based on your residency status or other considerations such as eligibility for veteran’s discounts or Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE).
Avalanche Science Program: Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Field Technician Certificate Estimated Costs Academic Year 2017/18
1st Year Courses and Course Charges
|Course||Course Name||Credit hours||Course Charges|
|SAO 162||Intro to SWAT||3||$240|
|SAO 163||Snow and Avalanches I||2|
|SAO 164||Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Observations I||2||$40|
|SAO 165||Weather and Avalanche Forecasting I||1|
|MET 150||Basic Meteorology||4|
1st Year Tuition (12 credit hours)
|In-District ($ 65/cr)||In-Service Area ($ 143/cr)||In-State ($ 147/cr)||Out-of-State ($ 440/cr)|
2nd Year Courses and Course Charges
|Course||Course Name||Credit hours||Course Charges|
|SAO 263||Snow and Avalanches II||3|
|SAO 264||Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Observations II||2||~$40|
|SAO 265||Weather and Avalanche Forecasting II||1|
|SAO 266||Avalanche Safety Operations||1||~$40|
|SAO 279||SWAT Portfolio Seminar||1|
2nd Year Tuition (9 credit hours)
|In-District ($ 65/cr)||In-Service Area ($ 143/cr)||In-State ($ 147/cr)||Out-of-State ($ 440/cr)|
Scholarships: Colorado Mountain College offers many scholarships. The deadline to apply for scholarships is March 1 for the following academic year. Applications are excepted after the due date for a limited number of scholarships. See Scholarships for more information.
For specific guidance on financial aid and program costs please contact our campus registrations office, 719-486-4394 or 719-486-4219.
Program Required Equipment: Students will need to supply their own basic field equipment for program work (e.g. clothing, beacon, shovel, probe, snow study tools, etc.) Please refer to the Program Standards document for a specific list of required equipment.
Uniform Charges: The College wishes to identify its students in the field and on internships as belonging to the CMC Avalanche Science Program. Much of the coursework will be outside in the wintertime and having basic clothing layers is key. We anticipate sponsorship from well-known clothing manufacturers and being able to equip our students with high quality uniform pieces at a significant discount. Students enrolled in the Certificate of Occupational Proficiency will be required to purchase the basic student uniform (shell and insulation layer) for approximately $200-$250.
Course Charges: You should anticipate paying additional course charges for specific classes that have travel or equipment provided by the college. Please see the anticipated course charges in the tables above.
Room and Board: The campus will be holding a number of rooms in the Mountain View Residence Hall for Avalanche Science Program students who need a place to stay while here for the on-campus sessions. The residence hall does have a communal kitchen for meal preparation. 2017/18 room rates of $22.50/night are based on shared occupancy and meal tickets will also be available to purchase for students who wish to use our cafeteria.
Program Entry / Application Process
How do I apply to the program?
Prospective students are first encouraged to contact the CMC Leadville campus registration office for program application guidance (Mary Ebuna, email@example.com or phone 719.486.4394) or speak directly to the program faculty lead (Roger Coit, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 719.486.4259).
Prospective students will first apply to the college and then complete the program application online at How Do I Enroll? Applications to the program are accepted throughout the year with a recommended submission date of June 15.
What are the Program Entry Requirements and how do I establish that I am eligible?
Program entry requirements are detailed in the program application but generally: Students must demonstrate acceptable proficiency levels in math, computer skills, composition and reading, and communication.
Students need to have previously completed courses in Level 1 Recreational Avalanche Safety, Basic Avalanche Rescue, and Wilderness First Responder. Students must have appropriate snow travel equipment, cold-weather gear, and the ability to travel safely in mountainous terrain in winter conditions.
Some of these program entry requirements may be waived for students enrolling in individual courses for the purposes of continuing professional development and who are not seeking the full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency.
What should I do if I don’t know if I meet the program entry requirements?
We encourage you to discuss the program entry requirements with our program registration specialist (Mary Ebuna, email@example.com or phone 719.486.4394) or speak directly to the program faculty lead (Roger Coit, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 719.486.4259) for guidance on what you can do to meet the eligibility requirements.
Colorado Mountain College offers courses in all of the required prerequisite areas and we can provide the training needed to get you up to speed to join the Avalanche Science Program.
Do I have to be a skier?
The answer is mostly “No.” We are decidedly not requiring a specific “mode” of backcountry winter travel for much of the program fieldwork. However, all students will be required to ski (or split-board) and to snowmobile for some portion of the program in order to accomplish curriculum objectives.
An introductory snowmobiling module will be a part of the SAO 162 course and students must be able to ski or snowboard at the intermediate level for some specific outings or as required by some internship sites. Please refer to the Program Standards document for specific expectations of participant abilities and equipment for the program.
What equipment do I need for the program?
All program participants must have suitable personal equipment to travel safely at altitude in the winter- time backcountry environment in and around avalanche terrain; please refer to the Program Standards document for detailed equipment requirements and suggestions.
In addition to required personal equipment, students enrolled in the full certificate program will be required to have a program uniform for use during program field work and internships.