Jim Hutchison

Avalanche Advisor
Jim Hutchison
1878 Fircrest Dr.
Eugene OR 97403
Primary: 541-517-2125

Avalanche Programs in the Oregon Region

Patrol Avalanche Advisor Instructors Avalanche IT’s
Rob Owens Rob Owens, L1
Bart Wills Bart Wills, L1, L2
Ali Small, L1
Joe McCormick Joe McCormick, L1
Kathy Alexander, L1, L2
Kathy Alexander
Joseph Calbreath    
JMatt Stouder John Fischer, L1
Jim Hutchison, L1, L2
Laurie Monico, L1
Jim Hutchison

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Description of NSP courses

Avalanche Awareness:

A basic introduction to avalanche hazards with an emphasis on what winter sports enthusiasts should know before they enter the backcountry. It serves primarily to develop respect for avalanche hazard and encourage backcountry travelers to enroll in a Level 1 course. Target audience: General public interested in venturing into the backcountry. Prerequisites: None. Duration: 60-90 minutes.

Introduction to Avalanche Safety and Rescue:

This course introduces fundamental principles of avalanche hazard, safety and rescue. Target audience: The course is designed for patrollers who operate in areas with insufficient snow or terrain to conduct Level 1 field training. This is a senior elective, but is not a substitute for Level 1 Avalanche and does not been the prerequisite for Level 2 Avalanche. Prerequisites: None. Duration: 8 hours classroom time, minimum. No fieldwork required.

Standard Level 1 Avalanche:

This course meets the standards established by the American Avalanche Association and covers the essentials of hazard recognition and evaluation, safe trip planning, route negotiation, decision making, self-rescue/survival strategies, companion and group rescue. Target audience: The course is designed for recreationalists who travel in avalanche terrain. Prerequisites: None. Duration: 24 hours instruction, at least 60% in the field.

Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel

This course is an enhanced version of the Standard Level 1 course that includes supplemental organized avalanche rescue content. Target audience: Ski patrollers and members of organizations or agencies who may become engaged in avalanche search and rescue. Prerequisites: None. Duration: 28 hours instruction, at least 60% in the field.

Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel:

This is an advanced course that covers aspects of avalanche forecasting and hazard assessment, leadership strategies for avalanche rescue and documentation for incidents and rescues. Target audience: Ski patrollers or members of other organizations or agencies engaged in avalanche search and rescue who wish to upgrade their skills to a leadership level. Prerequisites: Current Level 1 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel (current meaning within the last three years or a refresher within the last three years); at least one intervening season of additional experience in the field is highly recommended.

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How to become an Avalanche Instructor

How to become an Avalanche Instructor:

(see pages 2-17 to 2-19, NSP Avalanche Instructor’s Manual)

  1. Complete the NSP Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel course.
  2. Complete the Instructor Development (ID) course. The ID course is available through a one-day class offered annually throughout the Region or via an e-course http://www.nspelearning.com.
  3. If the applicant meets the prerequisites above, the Region Advisor or Division Supervisor assigns an IT for the trainee and provides contact information for both parties. If assigned by the Region Advisor, the Advisor will notify the Division Supervisor that an IT has been assigned.
  4. The designated IT arranges primary mentoring for the trainee. Mentoring should include all aspects of lesson planning and delivery, course planning, scheduling, registration, administration and closure. A trainee’s final evaluation should indicate competence in all areas. More information on mentoring can be found in the Avalanche Instructor’s Manual.
  5. Complete an Instructor Application and submit a copy to the Region Advisor and to the Division Supervisor. It is important to include a comprehensive list of all your avalanche training and expertise and document all of your NSP (or equivalent) teaching experience.
Level 1 Instructor certification requirements

The instructor trainee must teach classroom lessons and field sessions at a minimum of two Level 1 for Rescue Personnel courses. All teaching activities need to be documented on the course’s Instructor Activity Report that is sent to the Division Supervisor.

When the mentor feels that the trainee is ready for a formal evaluation, he/she arranges for an IT to observe and evaluate his/her performance.

If the trainee is approved for certification, the IT will forward the evaluation to the Division Supervisor and the trainee’s mentor.

The Division Supervisor submits paperwork to the National Office.

When NSP certifies your instructor status, the new instructor will have access to the Instructor materials on the NSP website.

Avalanche Instructor Certification is good for three years, after which time each instructor’s activity will be assessed to determine whether he/she has met the necessary requirements to maintain your Instructor Certification (see “How to Maintain your Instructor Certification”).

Level 2 Instructor certification requirements

The trainee should be an experienced, highly competent Level 1 avalanche instructor with Instructor of Record (IOR) experience.

The trainee should have assisted in teaching classroom sessions and field activities for two or more NSP Level 2 Avalanche for Rescue Personnel courses.

There are no formal mentoring guidelines for progressing from Level 1 to Level 2 instructor status. A plan should be developed in collaboration with the Region Advisor and Division Supervisor.

Submit an application for Level 2 certification directly to the Division Supervisor. The application must document qualifications and include a copy of the instructor’s activity log. In addition to this information, the Division Supervisor will also review:

  1. At least one evaluation indicating competent performance as IOR of a Level 1 course.
  2. Instructor activity reports or logs that indicate teaching a variety of Level 1 and Level 2 classroom topics and skills in the field, including organized rescue.

The Division Supervisor will evaluate the application and either:

  1. Approve the application and forward to the National Avalanche Advisor
  2. Consult with the IT and instructor if clarification about the application is needed, or
  3. Provide reasons why the application was denied. The Division Supervisor will work with the National Program Director to resolve any issues.
  4. If approved, the National Program Director will forward paperwork to the National Office.

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    How to maintain your Avalanche Instructorship

    The Division Supervisor receives an Instructor Update Roster each year. The Division Supervisor evaluates each Instructor based upon the Instructor Activity Reports and IT evaluations that he/she has received. If the record appears to be deficient, the Division Supervisor will contact the Instructor in an attempt to resolve and discrepancies. If the record does not appear to support re-certification, the Patroller should be decertified. If the judgment turns out to be in error, the instructor can be reinstated.

    Level 1 Instructor qualifications:

    During the last three years you should have accomplished the following:

    1. Taught in at least one NSP Level 1 or 2 course during the certification period or teach the avalanche portion of the annual on-hill/on-trail refresher program each year.
    2. Kept excellent records of your teaching and field experience. Note that it is your responsibility to keep track of this experience. Although Instructor Activity Reports should be filed with the Division Supervisor for each class taught, these are not inclusive of activity outside those formal classes and it is not possible for the Division Supervisor to generate a report of all of your activity.
    3. Had IT evaluations that indicate satisfactory teaching performance during the certification period.
    4. Completed at least one NSP-sponsored continuing education clinic or complete an approved avalanche workshop (typically the National Avalanche School or the International Snow Science Workshop), school or college-accredited class during the recertification period. The Division Supervisor may qualify other conferences or workshops if they last at least one full day and cover relevant avalanche topics (see Instructor’s manual).
    Level 2 Instructor qualifications:

    During the last three years you should have accomplished the following:

    1. Taught in at least one NSP Level 1 course every year or at least one Level 2 course for rescue personnel during the three-year certification period.
    2. Had IT evaluations that indicates satisfactory performance throughout the performance period.
    3. Completed at least one NSP-sponsored continuing education clinic or completes an approved avalanche workshop, school or college-accredited class during the certification period.

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    How To Register, Administer and Complete an Avalanche Course

    The Instructor of Record (IOR) is responsible for registering the course with NSP, overseeing the organization of the classroom and field sessions, coordinating the efforts of participating instructors and completing/submitting all paperwork to NSP.

    Registering a course:

    Set dates, times and enrollment limits for the course as early in the fall as possible to allow patrollers to arrange their schedules so that they can participate in the course.

    Before the start of the course, the Instructor of Record must register the course online by logging into his/her member page at www.nsp.org.

    1. From the Education Tools drop down select Register a Course.
    2. Follow instructions to register the course.
    3. Make note of the course number that is assigned to it. Reference this course number on all correspondence related to the course.

    Within a week or so, you should receive a packet from NSP that includes a blank Course Completion Record (CCR), a blank Instructor Activity Report and blank certificates of achievement. You may also download them from this site:

    • Instructor activity report forms download
    • A printing template for printing out certificates of achievement download.

    Note that a course must be registered before it is conducted. Only registered courses are covered by NSP liability insurance.

    Notify relevant Patrol Directors and Region Advisor that the course is registered. The Region Advisor can help arrange attendance by an IT. An IT should be present to evaluate all avalanche courses. Order books and any other materials needed for the course. Send any reading assignments or other work that you would like students to complete prior to the first class.

    At the first class session:

    Have students fill out information needed for Course Completion Record (CCR) on a blank form during first course. Collect course fees. Have students make checks out to your local patrol and give to patrol Treasurer. Have students complete and sign liability release forms.

    End of course:

    Submit NSP Certificates of Achievement to participants who successfully complete the course. Send notes of explanation to students who receive a Fail or Incomplete.

    Within two weeks of the end of the course, complete the Course Completion Roster This form came with your course materials from NSP, but can also be download here.

    Send original CCR to the National Office. This is the only paperwork that the National Office needs.

    Send a copy of the CCR, the completed Instructor Activity form and a summary of the student evaluations (if not done by the IT) to the PNWD Avalanche supervisor.

    Keep a copy of all correspondence for your records.

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