Avalanche Program

Rick Grubin, Program Supervisor


The 2014-2015 season was one of continued excellence for the RMD Avalanche Program. This season saw more students taught in formal courses, with an increase in backcountry enthusiasts reached via informal talks and presentations.


Avalanche program leadership within the RMD experienced little change: Rick Grubin (Loveland) continues as the division program supervisor, Scott Hsu (Pajarito) is the supervisor in the Southwest Region, and Fred Schibi (Sunlight) remains in the Western Region supervisory role. Cindy Gagnon (Bryan Mountain Nordic) and Brian Ballard (Bryan Mountain Nordic) share the Eastern Region Supervisor role, as former supervisor Myron Allen (Medicine Bow Nordic) is now the NSP MTR National Program Director.

NSP Avalanche Program

In April 2014, the NSP National Avalanche Committee (NAC) approved updates to the NSP Avalanche Curriculum and Avalanche Instructor Manual (AIM). A modularized L1 curriculum is in place, where the L1 classroom module serves as a standalone course component. Field and rescue modules for L1 courses may be added – provided they are held in legitimate avalanche terrain – to complete L1 courses. All of these courses qualify as electives for the NSP Senior Program.

In order to register, conduct, and participate in courses for the 2014-2015 season, instructors were required to first attend a CE course covering (among other things) the new AIM content, course administration and paperwork, and related details. The RMD avalanche program supervisor, region supervisors, and a few avalanche ITs held the first such CE event in conjunction with the 2015 CSAW; further CE events for the balance of RMD avalanche instructors were held regionally.

RMD Courses

The heart of the RMD avalanche program is its instructor group and the quality courses they deliver. This season, 11 courses were delivered to 200+ registered students. A formal breakdown includes one Awareness course, eight L1 courses, one rescue refresher, and one divisional L2 course. Instructor clinics were informally held in various locations.

RMD avalanche instructors delivered numerous informal presentations to the general
public, covering a variety of topics. Presentations of this nature are both more popular and important with each passing season.

The primary product delivered by the program remains L1 courses, mirroring trends
nationally in avalanche education. These courses are the foundation of avalanche education, and focus in this area is warranted. Generally, L1 course content and field experience is adequate for the vast majority of RMD patrollers; this is a primary reason for both numerous L1 courses and a lesser number of L2 courses.

RMD L2 Course, Berthoud Pass, CO
RMD L2 Course, Berthoud Pass, CO

Demand for L2 courses remains low. There are myriad reasons for this, including those listed above, as well as more focus on mastering basic skills taught in L1 courses before moving on to advanced topics. Though L2 course completion is a requirement to begin the process to become a NSP avalanche instructor, basic mastery of skills before completing an L2 course is mandatory.

RMD avalanche instructors visited regions outside their own during the season to assist with courses, continuing for each other the process of Model, Mentor, Measure – just as we do for our students.

Training and Instructors

A perennial challenge in the RMD Avalanche Program is development, and subsequent recertification, of instructors. L2 course completion is a requirement to begin the process of becoming an instructor.

The RMD Avalanche Program proudly welcomes three new L2 instructors to its ranks: Ranie Lynds (Medicine Bow Nordic), Shane Edmonds (Sunlight), and Scott Hsu (Pajarito). As well, Owen Richard (Diamond Peaks) qualified as a L1 instructor. Congratulations to these new instructors!

RMD avalanche instructors continue to demand continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, via instructor clinics and external events. Delivery of clinics is dependent upon at least a RMD L2 Course, Berthoud Pass, CO few instructors attending relevant avalanche-related events. Division funding of the avalanche program to subsidize instructor attendance at such events, and annual instructor clinics in each region that include a mentorship component, is critical if the RMD avalanche program is to remain relevant.

The RMD Avalanche Program budget annually requests funding for travel to and attendance at CPD events such as Snow and Avalanche Workshops (SAWs) in Colorado and Utah, the National Avalanche School (NAS) classroom and field sessions, and the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW). The 2016 ISSW returns to Breckenridge, CO in 2016, providing an opportunity for many to attend.

Program Goals

As always, the division avalanche program has many goals. In addition to the program’s successes and ideas mentioned above, continuing the tremendous camaraderie among instructors who visit patrols and courses to assist program delivery and quality remains paramount, as does professional development for instructors at all levels.

It is a great pleasure to continue to learn from and work with a well-trained, enthusiastic and capable group of fellow avalanche professionals.