Rueben Krabbe Photo
SAMSARA AVALANCHE PROGRAMS
For advanced level backcountry riders, who have completed a Level I. Minimum 5 years riding experience.
Highest level course for independent riders who have completed a Level II, with at least 8 years of experience in big mountain terrain.
Company-wide avalanche & technical skills education for snow-sports brands.
BACKCOUNTRY SNOW SAFETY COURSE
"The Samsara approach to snow safety cuts the fat out of traditional courses and focuses on what back country riders can use every day.
The class was incredible, and I plan on taking some sort of class from you every year from now on."
Zahan is a true professional and it shows in his Backcountry Snow Safety Program. His ability to simplify complicated subjects is remarkable. The intentional small class size really enhanced the learning environment, and Zahan was able to customize the lessons to match our ability and knowledge. It was exactly what I needed to make myself a more conscious decision maker, route finder, and observer along my travels. Zahan runs a great program, and I would highly recommend it to those touring partners and teams who need a teacher to help you become a more empowered backcountry traveler.
This 3 day course serves small private groups who have already completed an approved Level I course, and are looking to take their snow assessment skills to the next level. The course is taught at the Level II standard, however it is not a certified course, which allows for more flexibility, and a bias towards time spent in the mountains.
The distinctive feature of the Backcountry Snow Safety Program is that it puts the students in the lead for the entirety of the course. As such, the students conduct all of the route finding, stability assessment, decision making, and group management. This is a upper level course for experienced backcountry riders with a high level of fitness.
The Complete Picture of Stability
Tracking the Season History
Avalanche Problems & Behavior
Mechanics of Avalanche Release
Metamorphism of Snow
Framework for Decision Making
Terrain and Group Management
December - January 2019
Based on Group Availability
+ Optional 1 Day Add-ons
Technical Skills for Ski Alpinism
(Anchors, Belays, Rappels)
Digital Route Planning
Teton Pass. Jackson WY
Minimum of 5 years of human-powered backcountry riding experience
Completed American Avalanche Association approved Level I Avalanche course within the past 5 years
Ability to complete 4-5k of uphill travel comfortably
Ability to confidently ski 40 degree terrain in all conditions
Proficiency with single burials
BIG MOUNTAIN SNOW SAFETY COURSE
"I came away with a much greater understanding of snow. Z's ability to read snowpack and make tough judgement calls is like nothing I've ever seen. A true pleasure to travel with in the mountains and a great person to learn from, especially in big high consequence terrain."
Ian McIntosh. Professional Big Mountain Skier
Snow is mysterious. It is a material that exists at the triple point of physical states; liquid, solid, gas - snow is ever-changing. As skiers and riders - and those who seek adventure in remote and snow covered mountains, our life depends upon our understanding of this mystical material. We seek to be ‘engineers’ of snow, able to make life-critical decisions about the properties of this material - how cohesive is the slab? Is this weak layer continuous? The answer to all of these questions relies on an intimate understanding of snow.
Developing a Jedi-level understanding of snow, is a lifelong quest.
The Big Mountain Snow Safety Course is the highest level program for independent riders exploring uncharted and remote terrain in the greater ranges of the world. The Big Mountain Snow Safety Course brings cutting edge research and an understanding of snow dynamics to the process of decision making. This program combines American Avalanche Institute approved Level II avalanche curriculum with technical rope skills for managing complex and close-out terrain with an added layer of security.
Where does this course fit into the certification process?
Until 2017 avalanche education was divided into Levels I, II & III. In 2017 the American Avalanche Association adopted a new structure which divides education into a Professional and Recreational tracks. The Recreational track ends at Level II, an ideal course for a backcountry skier at a developmental stage in their career. The Professional track is designed to give individuals working in an institutional setting, the standards to communicate and share information consistently. It is heavily focused on standardized data collection, and is not well suited to the decision-making needs of independent skiers and riders operating in high consequence, remote terrain.
The Big Mountain Snow Safety fills a gap in education that exists for high level independent riders, and incorporates much of the decision making tools and research previously covered in a Level III course with a focus on small group management in high-angle alpine terrain. What sets the Samsara method apart is that the field time is 100% student led. All students prepare detailed route plans, and take turns in the mountains leading their group through the terrain, deciding when to stop and evaluate, conducting all of the assessment and most importantly practicing the art of interpretation of the results, and converting their findings into a decision of where, and how to travel. As your instructor I will always directly behind you, helping you to develop and refine your own method of making and implementing the decisions for your group. It is this process of trial and error, of making decisions and explaining your thinking that creates learning that will change how you move through the mountains for the rest of your life.
Metamorphism of Snow
Understanding the Season History
The Complete Picture of Stability
Interpretation of Stability Tests
High Angle Terrain Management
Temperature Effects on Avalanche Release
Decision Making Framework for Ski Alpinism
Stacking, Coiling and Pre-rigging for Ski Alpinism
Belay techniques for Slab Management
Stances Anchors and Advanced Transitions
4 or 5 days (depending on venue) scheduled upon request. Minimum group size of 3 participants
coming soon for 2021
Tetons, WY or Wasatch, UT
Minimum 8 years of human-powered backcountry riding experience
Completed American Avalanche Association Level I & II Avalanche courses within the past 5 years
5 documented ski descents of 45 degree or steeper backcountry terrain
5 documented ski descents involving 6000’+ in a day
Documented snow assessment, and decision making experience in at least 2 different mountain ranges
Proficiency with multiple burials - 2 beacons in a 50m x 50m area, probe strike within 7mins.
The Big Mountain Snow Safety Program meets the American Avalanche Association guidelines and is certified through the American Avalanche Institute at the Level II standard. It is an application-based program, designed for professional skiers and riders, freeride athletes and other independent skiers operating in big and remote mountain ranges around the world.
What is the process for application?
Step 1 - Read the prerequisites carefully. If you don’t meet the requirements but you are keen to move in this directions, I can help guide you along your journey. Taking this course pre-maturely will not accelerate your learning. Consider taking an American Avalanche Institute Level II, or a Private Avalanche course with Samsara.
Step 1 - Send me a complete resume summarizing the highlights of your backcountry career, and avalanche education
Step 2 - I will review all of the applications, and respond to you. (This usually happens in September-November)
Step 3 - If you meet the requirements and would like to reserve your spot, you will need to make a $200 non-refundable deposit
"Zahan is a true jedi master when it comes to big mountain training. His passion and knowledge of the mountains is second to none. Zahan's brings a modern approach to the evolution of big mountain travel."
Todd Jones. Creator of International Pro Riders Workshop. Teton Gravity Research Founder and Owner
Few projects that I have undertaken are closer to my heart than contributing to the collective knowledge of my peers in the world of big mountain travel. I have spent my entire adult life amongst the people who make a life connected to the mountains. Guides, athletes, snow sports brands, and the media that keeps the stories alive - we are all connected by a love for wild and improbable places - and the gravity that fuels our movement through them.
If you are a skier or a rider today - you are a part of a generation that has driven the biggest developments in the history of the Snow Sports Industry. Global brand sponsorships, International Freeride competitions, lighter and stronger equipment, expeditions to the farthest corners of the planet - it has been a thrilling time to be a part of this industry.
It has also been a devastating time. I reflect on the passing of Trevor Petersen, Doug Coombs, Andreas Franson, Liz Daley, Jim Jack and others. Some of the finest adventurers amongst us have gone far too soon. While we will never eliminate the risk in the pursuit of adventure, as ambassadors of our industry we must be at the forefront of education and good practice.
For the past 5 years Samsara Mountain Experience has been teaching courses for some of the biggest brands in the Snow Sports industry including Patagonia, Teton Gravity Research & Brain Farm. This 3 day course provides a comprehensive approach to big mountain safety. Our team of upto 11 professional guides and educators specialize in every aspect of the game: from snow assessment, to wilderness medicine - from high angle rescue to technical rope skills for steep skiing - we cover every facet of the big mountain experience.
If you are interested in setting up a program for your company, I am here to partner with you. You can click the Register Now button to complete a survey and get started. I will follow up with a phone call and we can begin creating a custom Big Mountain Workshop for your team.