CMC Avalanche Science Program Standards 

Welcome to the Leadville Campus of Colorado Mountain College (CMC), and congratulations on your decision to pursue a Certificate in Occupational Proficiency as an Avalanche Science Technician.

The following document provides program expectations for students. Please review the components of this document carefully. These standards impact academic success, personal safety, and the safety of their fellow students.

Essential Eligibility Requirements


Students must be 18 years of age to participate in Program coursework unless specifically authorized by the Program Director.

Physical ability

The following physical requirements, in addition to those outlined in Winter Backcountry Travel, Ability, and Health and Fitness, are essential for success in the program.

Students must possess the physical ability to:

  • Lift a minimum of 30% of your body weight from the ground to above your waist.
  • Stand for extended periods (1 or more hours).
  • Reach objects overhead and to either side.
  • Crouch or stoop for some time, not to exceed 15 minutes.
  • Remain seated for at least 60 minutes.
  • Walk/hike/ski/split-board/snowshoe/snowmobile on flat, uneven terrain for up to six hours while carrying a backpack weighing up to 20% of your body weight.
  • Walk/hike/ski/split-board/snowshoe/snowmobile up and down slopes of varying angles up to 40° carrying a backpack weighing up to 20% of your body weight.
  • Withstand temperature extremes ranging from 105°F to -40°F with proper equipment.
  • Perform the above physical tasks at elevations ranging from 8000 to 14,400 feet.
  • Perform the above physical tasks throughout long, challenging field days in adverse weather conditions.
  • Possesses manual dexterity sufficient to manipulate objects in various shapes and sizes with gloved hands in temperatures below freezing.
  • Possess speech, vision, and hearing sufficient for personal communication in various indoor and outdoor environments.
  • Possess speech, vision, hearing, and manual dexterity sufficient for using electronic devices such as a smartphone, desktop computer, tablet computer, avalanche transceiver, GPS device, rescue beacon, or radio in various indoor and outdoor environments.

Winter Backcountry Travel and Ability

The Avalanche Science program is designed to develop skills, knowledge, and behaviors essential to professional avalanche safety work. All students must be able to ski or snowboard per the standards listed below, ensuring that students can focus on the educational experience and not be limited by personal skiing/riding ability or fitness.:

  1. Over the snow ability:
    1. Must be able to ski (AT or telemark) or split-board at a “Strong Intermediate Level” in variable terrain and snow conditions while wearing a ski pack. This includes ascent and descent of slopes up to 40 degrees on non-groomed snow.
    2. Must have at least one winter season of backcountry skiing/riding and have completed at least 20 backcountry ski/ride tours, 5 of which include at least a total of ≥ 2,000 feet of ascent and 6 miles of travel in a day.
    3. Ability to make efficient and timely transitions from climbing to skiing/riding and back and manage ski equipment and self-care without extended delays.


Health and Fitness

  1. Health and Fitness minimum expectations:
    1. Students must submit a CMC Physician Reported Medical History Form before engaging in fieldwork. The Student’s Medical History will be reviewed by the program faculty in consultation with the program medical advisor as needed. Note: Students with physical and/or mental health conditions deemed incompatible with program activities may not be permitted to participate in fieldwork. Program applicants are encouraged to contact the Program Director and the campus disabilities coordinator with questions. Per the CMC Risk Management Plan, the fieldwork activities of the Program meet Level IV risk/exposure.
    2. Students must be of appropriate physical fitness to engage in strenuous physical activity for prolonged periods (>4 hours), in cold weather, in harsh conditions, and at altitudes of >10,000’.


Previous academic preparation and required certifications:

To be admitted into the Avalanche Science Program, students must substantiate appropriate academic preparation through one of the following methods:

  • College transcripts (official or unofficial)
  • College placement exam (ACT, SAT, Accuplacer)
  • final high school transcript
  • course challenge exam, equivalent coursework
  • work experience
  • other experience/learning as reviewed and approved by the program application review committee


  • English Composition and Reading at the “college-ready level”.
  • Math at the “college-ready level”.



  • Level 1 Recreational Avalanche Safety course (preferably completed within the past five years) meeting the American Avalanche Association Level I Recreational Avalanche Safety curriculum guidelines.
  • Avalanche Rescue course- At least 8 hours long, completed within the past five years, and covering the American Avalanche Association Avalanche Rescue curriculum guidelines.
  • Current Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification: At least 70 hours long and following the Wilderness Medicine Education Collaborative SOP guidelines.
  • Note: Applicants may possess a higher level of medical credential (e.g., EMT certification), but the application review committee will only consider this equivalent when it includes training or experience in emergency medical care performed in a wilderness context (e.g., EMT certification combined with ki patrol experience).
  • Current Adult CPR with AED certification (Must be training that requires hands-on skills practice with an instructor).

Before applying, Students are encouraged to discuss prerequisite academic work and required certifications with the Program Director.  These minimum entry requirements are intended to promote the best possible educational experience for our students; the program acknowledges that there may be alternative pathways to meeting these expectations, but students must be prepared to substantiate equivalent studies and experience.

Some of these entry requirements may be waived for students enrolling in individual courses to continue professional development who do not seek the full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in avalanche science technician.

Additionally, students may be allowed to enter the program while concurrently enrolled in prerequisite coursework as dictated by the necessary skills/knowledge required for the course progression (i.e., a student may be permitted to start the program but must complete required prerequisite studies/certification before the first fieldwork session).


Computing- skills, software, and hardware

Snow safety professionals rely on computers and various software applications daily, and the Avalanche Science Program, coursework, and learning outcomes do as well.  The Program requires students to have:

  1. Strong, basic computing skills.
  2. Consistent access to a computer with webcam and microphone running a modern operating system (laptop computer preferred, simple USB headset strongly encouraged).
  3. A reliable, high-speed internet connection capable of streaming voice and video for online class sessions, accessing cloud-based applications, and uploading/downloading files up to 100MB in size.
  4. Students are strongly recommended to carry a modern GPS-capable smartphone capable of running various navigation and other snow science applications.


Note: The college has computer labs open daily, and students can arrange to use a laptop computer during on-campus sessions if needed.


  1. The Program requires the use of a variety of applications for coursework, for example:
    1. Microsoft Applications: PowerPoint, Excel, and Word.
    2. Google Applications: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Sites, Google Forms, and Google Drive.
    3. Web Browser: Students should have more than one modern web browser, such as Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.
    4. Other commonly used applications are Adobe Reader, Google Earth, CalTopo, YouTube, WebEx, Zoom, and Snow Pilot.


Note: the program does not use Mac OS-specific applications (e.g., pages, numbers).


  • Students must be comfortable with the following basic computer skills:
    1. Familiarity with the operating system on the computer you will be using.
    2. Composition and basic formatting using word processing software such as Word or Google Docs.
    3. Create simple spreadsheets in Excel or Google Sheets, along with basic formatting and formula use.
    4. Creation of simple presentations using PowerPoint or Google Slides.
    5. Sending and receiving emails and sending/receiving attachments.
    6. Understand terms such as mouse, drag, drop, open, select, file, choose, double-click, download, upload, send, etc.
    7. Print documents and pictures.
    8. Installation of new software.
    9. Web navigation.
    10. Pull down menus and directories in Windows or folders on a Mac.
    11. Save/Save As (files).
    12. File naming conventions (allowed characters, extensions, format, etc.)
    13. Finding and managing files in the cloud, hard drive, or external memory devices.
    14. Basic cloud-based computing applications.
    15. Minimize and maximize windows.
    16. Copy and paste text or graphics across applications (using the clipboard).



Public Speaking, Communication, and Professional Writing


Snow safety professionals are called upon to provide information and exchange ideas across various platforms and formats to different audiences. Students are required to engage in public speaking and to develop skills in delivering information effectively.  Throughout the two-year program, students will make multiple presentations to their peers, faculty, the public, and even industry experts.  Writing assignments are frequent, and students will be evaluated on simple grammar, spelling, and composition while learning to build basic technical reports, literature reviews, quick communications, standard recordkeeping, and avalanche and teaching modules.


General Program Standards

Online learning expectations

  • Students must complete a significant amount of coursework online, both synchronously or asynchronously. Some online coursework will be delivered live in a ‘synchronous’ format where students will be required to attend class sessions on set days and times remotely via a web-conferencing platform such as Zoom.  Other online work such as reading assignments, topic-focused assignments, quiz/exam taking, and discussion group participation will be completed ‘asynchronously’ (independently) outside of live class time.
  • Our success during online classes will depend on the same commitment we all bring to the physical classroom- we will adopt the same rules and norms, such as taking notes, participating by asking and answering questions, wearing classroom-appropriate clothing, being free from distractions such as personal cell phones, and being prepared with assigned material before the class sessions.
  • Students attempting to use a smartphone or tablet for online classes instead of a laptop will suffer inherent problems in viewing important course information, accessing shared files, creating/saving/moving files, and the ability to complete assignments.


Expectations for “live” online class sessions:

  1. Attendance is required unless otherwise noted by the course instructor.
  2. Before the class starts, log in early to every session and ensure your settings are optimized (e.g., audio/speakers, mic, video view).
  3. Choose a well-lit, quiet area.
  4. Use a USB headset with a mic whenever possible. Even inexpensive devices work well to reduce distracting background noises, help you hear what’s being discussed, and provide clear sound when you speak.
  5. Ensure you are comfortable with Zoom's (or WebEx's) functions.
  6. Please be “present” during class: turn off other distracting electronics, identify a desk or study area that helps you focus, and close browser tabs that are not required for class participation.
  7. Mute your mic unless you are speaking.
  8. Show your video feed if you are comfortable doing so. It helps with communication (e.g., facial expressions and gestures can help promote understanding).
  9. Dress and behave appropriately and follow the same expectations as in the classroom.
  10. Use “hand-raise” notification to ask questions unless the instructor has directed otherwise.


Canvas Online Learning Management System

The Avalanche Science Program uses the Colorado Mountain College Canvas online learning management system for a significant portion of classwork. Students must monitor class information frequently (at least twice weekly) and be responsible for any assigned material and announcements.


Communication Expectations:

The following communication standards establish baseline expectations for the Avalanche Science Program students and faculty to promote learning, safety, and general academic success. (Individual instructors may publish other specific standards in the course syllabus.)

In general:

  1. Students must take an active and responsible role in their performance during individual courses and the avalanche science program as a whole. This may include communicating with the instructor or program director outside of class hours regarding grades, assignments, class performance, professionalism, and expectations. Published office hours are generally the best opportunity for communicating with the instructor outside of class.
  2. Students must work to ensure that all written communications (e.g., email, text messages, voicemails, notes, assignment submissions) with program faculty are clearly written and confirmed (i.e., the instructor acknowledges receipt of the message).
  3. Class session cancellation will be communicated by the college’s emergency alert system or by the instructor via a Canvas push notification.  Please note that text messages from faculty may be used in the event of short-notice changes in operational plans.
  4. For emergencies during internship activities, students must contact the program director via telephone at the earliest reasonable time.
  5. Student communication with instructors and college staff must be clearly written and follow a basic business communication format (e.g., a clear subject line, greeting, message, and sign-off). Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are expected to be commensurate with typical business communications for all written communications.


  1. Students must use their college-assigned email account for all course/program-related business.
  2. While the program is in session, students must monitor their college-assigned email account frequently (at least twice weekly). They are responsible for all program and course-related information delivered via that medium.

Instructor personal phones and text (SMS) Messaging:

  1. Due to the intensive and often fluid structure of the program activities, students and instructors may need to communicate directly using personal cell phones and text messaging.  Students must be mindful of instructors' non-emergency interruptions and must always maintain professional communication standards.  The instructor must confirm text messages from students to instructors. Otherwise, it should be assumed that the message was not received.


Program Attendance

Program students are required to attend all “on-campus” sessions; no absences are allowed. The program director may consider verifiable emergencies as exceptions on a case-by-case basis, although these sessions' intensive and focused nature may not allow for accommodation.

Each course and instructor will establish attendance/participation standards in their syllabus.  In general, attendance for all class sessions (either face-to-face or synchronous online) is a baseline expectation for Program students.  Excessive tardiness or missed class time may constitute grounds for grading penalties, administrative withdrawal from the course, or possibly expulsion from the Program.


Attitude and Professional Behavior:

Students must maintain a professional and appropriate demeanor in all field and classroom sessions and during internships. Disruptive or inappropriate behavior will simply not be tolerated, and students deemed disruptive will be removed from that course or internship site and risk removal from the Program.

Students are preparing for a career where dress, appearance, and personal hygiene expectations reflect a professional demeanor. Students must shower regularly, wear clean clothing, and maintain a professional appearance. Our goal is to educate and prepare our students with a professional demeanor that will significantly increase their chances of finding work in the industry.

Student performance, behavior, and demonstration of professionalism will be evaluated during internship activities.  Students may be removed from the program for failure to maintain Program expectations during their internship.  The faculty coordinating student internship experiences will establish specific parameters for this in the course syllabus.


Academic Policies & Requirements:

Students are expected to read and abide by the standards of conduct described in the Colorado Mountain College Student Handbook.

To receive the Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Avalanche Science Field Technician from Colorado Mountain College, students must pass each of the required Avalanche Science Program courses and maintain a 2.0 cumulative program GPA.

Students must maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA in Program coursework to be eligible for American Avalanche Association Pro 1 and Pro 2 certification.

A failing grade in any Avalanche Science Program course may result in the student’s removal.  The Program Committee and course instructor will determine the appropriate outcome.


Sexual Harassment and other forms of unacceptable behavior:

Harassment of any kind is unprofessional and unacceptable. All CMC students have a right to work and learn in an environment free from unsolicited and unwelcome sexual overtures. Sexual harassment is when an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs.  Please refer to the Student Handbook for the college’s detailed policy [link below].

Additionally, inappropriate behavior such as physical intimidation/harassment, insulting or disparaging comments about race, gender, sexuality, religion, or ethnicity, jokes in poor taste that may insult a person, or using offensive language will not be tolerated. Please refer to the Student Handbook for the college’s detailed policies [link provided below].

Substance Use:

Any drug or alcohol use (including marijuana) will not be tolerated during any academic or field course offered by the Avalanche Science Program. Violating the substance abuse policy may be grounds for dismissal from the Program and possible disciplinary action from the College. Please refer to the Student Handbook for the college’s detailed policies [CMC Student Handbook link below].

Tobacco Use:

Tobacco products (cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping, etc.) may not be used at any time during face-to-face, in-person Avalanche Science Program coursework. Nicorette® gum or the Nicoderm® patch are examples of acceptable substitutes.

Criminal Background Checks and Drug Screening:

Students are advised that, although the Program does not conduct criminal background checks or drug screening, the internship sites where students may be assigned may require these to be performed.  If needed, students will be responsible for any associated expenses.  Students may also be subject to additional workplace standards required by our internship locations.

CMC Student Handbook:

Students must be familiar with and are responsible for the content of the College’s Student Handbook. Student responsibilities, honesty, and the “code of conduct” listed in the handbook also apply to all academic and field courses in the Avalanche Science Program.

Safety & Equipment


The following lists outline the required and recommended equipment for participation in Program fieldwork.  All student equipment is expected to be of reasonable quality, have a modern design, and be of demonstrable utility.  All student equipment is subject to the approval of program instructors, and students may be required to acquire more suitable equipment before participating in fieldwork.  With that said, some equipment may be rented or borrowed for the specific activity, and students should discuss options with faculty before making any purchases. Additionally, some course-specific equipment is provided by the college.  The course SAO 1066- Introduction to ASP will establish equipment requirements and give students specific directions on what is appropriate.

  1. Clothing- Students must have sufficient personal clothing of reasonable quality and appropriate design to participate in extended winter outdoor activities. Individual preparedness is a primary assumption for snow/avalanche workers, and the ability to maintain a comfortable core temperature to participate in field activities is fundamental. This inventory includes:
    1. Outerwear shell and pants suitable for backcountry touring
    2. Insulation (down or synthetic, “puffy”) and mid-layers
    3. Base-layer top and bottom
    4. Hat, gloves, mittens, balaclava
    5. Socks
    6. Boots suitable for moving over snow during non-touring activities (e.g., snowmobiling or trips to the snow study site on campus)
  2. Program Uniform- Students enrolled in the certificate track must purchase the basic student uniform (shell layer). Students must wear this uniform during designated field sessions or other activities and field internships.  Students are expected to represent the program professionally while wearing uniform components outside of designated classwork or internship activities, and failure to do so may result in progressive disciplinary actions that may include removal from the Program.
  • Personal Gear (this equipment will be reviewed during the course SAO1066 Introduction to ASP) - Students must have:
    1. Backcountry ski backpack of at least 30 Liters capacity, preferably with a dedicated avalanche rescue tool compartment.
    2. Goggles & sunglasses
    3. Small 1st aid kit as specified in the “first aid minimum equipment” document and sunscreen
    4. Bivvy sack or rescue tarp.
    5. Repair kit suitable to maintain the student’s backcountry travel equipment.
    6. Miscellaneous items such as water bottles, thermos, multi-tool, or knife.
  1. Personal backcountry movement equipment (AT or telemark skis or split-board)- The program acknowledges that professional snow safety workers use a variety of snow-travel modalities. Still, due to the program's limitations in terrain access, permits, and time, all students must be able to travel on skis or split-board for program fieldwork. A key consideration for the program is that fieldwork can be carried out efficiently and safely.  While some fieldwork in simple terrain will not require specific equipment (e.g., snowshoes or winter boots would be appropriate), fieldwork in and around avalanche terrain will.  With this in mind, instructors will specify on what courses and for what fieldwork students will be required to have one of the following equipment types:
    1. Telemark skis at least 90mm at the waist (preferably with a releasable, free-pivot binding system), fitted climbing skins, plastic backcountry touring boots, or:
    2. Alpine Touring skis at least 90mm at the waist with releasable bindings, fitted climbing skins, and plastic backcountry touring boots, or:
    3. Split-board with suitable backcountry touring boots and bindings with fitted climbing skins (Note: ski poles are required for split-boarders).
    4. Note: students must be experienced and proficient with the use of their chosen backcountry travel equipment.
    5. Note: Students may also be required to use specific backcountry travel equipment as internship sites require (e.g., an alpine skiing setup with releasable bindings for a ski patrol internship).
  2. Personal Protective Equipment- The following safety equipment is strongly recommended for fieldwork in and around avalanche terrain but is not required:
    1. Airbag pack
    2. Helmet
    3. Note: Students may also be required to use the above equipment as internship sites require. The program will have several airbag packs for students if required during their internship.
  3. Avalanche rescue equipment- The following equipment is required:
    1. Avalanche transceiver of modern design (less than five years old) with 3-antennas and digital signal processing in good working condition (example transceiver models include: BCA Tracker 3, Pieps DSP Sport, Mammut Barryvox)
    2. Avalanche rescue shovel made of hardened aluminum with an extendable shaft.
    3. Avalanche probe pole of at least 270cm long (aluminum preferred vs. carbon).
  • Snow study equipment: The following equipment is required unless otherwise indicated. (Note: it is recommended that students delay the purchase of these items until they have attended the initial sessions of SAO 1066 Introduction to ASP and SAO1064, Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Observations).
    1. 2-meter ruler, metric (rigid)
    2. 10x or 15x loop (hand lens)
    3. Stem thermometer, Celsius reading, digital
    4. Large Column Cutting Cord
    5. Clinometer
    6. Snow Crystal Card (with mm grid)
    7. Snow Saw, 35cm minimum length
    8. Altimeter
    9. Compass
    10. GPS navigation device (this could be a GPS unit or a smartphone running a navigation/mapping app such as GAIA, Avanza, or CalTopo)
    11. Field Notebook
    12. Pencils (mechanical or wood)
    13. Shovel, extendable, flat blade, hardened Alu.
    14. Probe pole 270cm min. length with scale markings
    15. Pouch, stuff sac, or study kit to hold equipment


General Safety Considerations

  1. Fieldwork: Students will be held to a high expectation for safety awareness (e.g., risk evaluation) and practices (e.g., risk treatment) as a foundational philosophy of this program. Students will be assessed regularly on their safety awareness and practices, and failure to demonstrate appropriate application of safety concepts and practices taught may result in removal from the program.
  2. Independent Student Fieldwork: Students will be expected to complete some course assignments independently (without program faculty) in backcountry winter terrain. When doing so, students must abide by the program's established Fieldwork Safety Procedures for independent fieldwork. Program Fieldwork Safety Procedures include:
  3. Filing and approval of a completed independent fieldwork trip plan with at least one ASP faculty member.
  4. Completing check-in and check-out procedures.
  5. Identifying a reliable local contact for trip planning, check-out, and check-in.
  6. Provide local contact information on emergency procedures and contact information for rescue resources.
  7. Carrying minimum avalanche rescue equipment.
  8. Carrying program defined minimum personal protective equipment and rescue gear, 1st aid, and repair equipment.
  9. Carrying appropriate communication device/s (e.g., radio, cell phone, satellite phone, inReach® device).
  10. Carrying appropriate navigation tools.
  11. All independent student fieldwork must be done with a partner of appropriate ability (preferably another program student when possible).
  12. Carrying a Program issued inReach® device.


Student Affirmation of Avalanche Science Program Standards


I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Program guidelines presented in this document.



Student (Print Name): __________________________________________



Student (Signature): ____________________________________________



Date: _____________________________________