The U.S. Forest Service Mount Shasta Avalanche Center is offering free avalanche awareness courses and transceiver clinics.
One 90-minute Avalanche Awareness course that covers the key factors leading to avalanche formation and accidents was held last week and three more are scheduled to be held at the Mount Shasta City Library, 515 E. Alma Street, beginning at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12, Jan. 16 and Feb. 6.
Check online at for additional information.
Participants will learn how to identify avalanche terrain and recognize the clues of instability. This introductory course, according to Forest Service Climbing Ranger and Avalanche Specialist Eric White, is a great starting point for avalanche education and a refresher for those who have taken avalanche courses previously.
A series of transceiver clinics are also scheduled. The clinics help participants learn how to use avalanche transceivers and provide a practice session for beginners and advanced users at a nearby Forest Service Trailhead. All upcoming transceiver clinics will be at The Fifth Season, 300 North Mount Shasta Blvd. in Mount Shasta beginning at 9 a.m. on Dec. 13, Jan. 17 and Feb. 7.
Now in its 11th year of operation, the Forest Service Avalanche Center in Mount Shasta provides climbers, skiers, snowboarders and other visitors local weather forecasts, remote weather data, avalanche danger ratings and snowpack information. Additional information on snowfall, winds and snowpack stability can be obtained on the Forest Service online Avalanche Center at or by calling 530-926-9613.
Avalanche danger
An average of 28 people die annually in the United States from avalanches. Until Hurricane Katrina, avalanches killed more people in America than any other natural disaster. Last winter a record number of people were killed by avalanches in the United States, and 95 percent of those accidents involved people engaged in recreational activities. The major groups involved in avalanches in the United States are backcountry skiers, snowmobilers, snowboarders and climbers.
In 95 percent of avalanche accidents, the victim or a companion triggers the slide.
“If we can learn to identify the conditions that lead to avalanches, we can avoid triggering them and injuring or killing ourselves or friends,”?said White. “Nature always provides clues to the instability in the snow; we just need to learn how to find them.”
“Avalanche basics are a must for anyone planning to ski, snowshoe, snowboard or hike on the slopes or in the side canyons surrounding our area,” said White. 
Instructors are experienced climbing rangers and avalanche specialists from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
Backcountry tips
Tips when traveling in the winter backcountry include the following:
• Recent avalanches are the best indicator of avalanche danger.
• Ninety percent of avalanches occur on slopes from 30-45 degrees.
• Sustained winds increase the danger of an avalanche on leeward slopes.
• Rapid accumulation of snow, rapid temperature changes or rain on new snow will increase the avalanche danger.
• “Whoompfing” sounds or shooting cracks are other clues of avalanche danger.
• When in suspect terrain, travel one at a time from one island of safety to another.
• It is safer to travel on the windward side of ridges away from cornices or on low angle slopes without steeper slopes directly above you.
• Carry, know how to use and practice with the backcountry essentials: avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe. 
For more information and the training schedule, go to:
Online education is available at: