Winter Backcountry First Aid – Thoughts and Considerations

If you or your partner is caught and carried in an avalanche, it is possible that you are hurt.  It is important to be prepared to manage injuries in the backcountry. Here are some thoughts on backcountry first aid following an avalanche.

This video is optional.

If you want to learn more about backcountry first aid, take a Wilderness First Aid course or a Wilderness First Responder course.

Components of an Avalanche Rescue in the Backcountry

There are many facets of a well-executed avalanche rescue.  Practicing all of the components is essential, as buried victims have the best chance of survival if they are recovered within the first 10 minutes.

Watch this video from Backcountry Access about organizing an avalanche rescue.

Vista Lodge Case Study – Wrap up and Evening Forecasting Form

Filling out a PM form takes practice. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. The PM form is a great way to put your observations down on paper. It allows you to answer the question: did the conditions match the forecast?

Here is what Don and his group wrote down on their PM form. Don will leave you with a few final thoughts, as well.

Day 5 – Vista Lodge – Debrief of the Day

Did you make some notes about what you learned from this day? Watch the video below to hear what Don and his group discussed.

You have been tracking the snowpack at Vista Lodge for 5 days now. Take the time to download the PM form and fill it out. Do your best to fill it out completely. We have included some cheat sheets to help with the vocabulary.


LIKELIHOOD OF TRIGGERING is a combination of the spatial distribution of the avalanche problem and the sensitivity to triggering.

Day 5 – Vista Lodge – Ascent and Descent of the Planned Route

Are you curious about what Don and his team decided? Watch the following video to hear what they did.

Would you have made the same decisions? It’s worth taking a few minutes to reflect.

And take the time to answer the post-trip discussion questions regarding this particular day.

Were there any bad decisions made during this day?

Did anything surprise you (or the group) on this day?

What improvements would you make in the future?

Day 5 – Vista Lodge – Making a Plan for the Day

What did you decide? Are you venturing into new terrain? Sticking with known areas? Interested in hearing about what Don and his group decided? Watch the video below.

So, now you’re at the base of the slope you had discussed ascending. Using the Current Conditions portion of the checklist, what do you think? Ascend the slope? Head back to the lodge? Go somewhere else? Write down your thoughts, so you can compare them with Don and his group’s decision in the next video.

Is this terrain consistent with your pre-trip plan? Are you where you talked about being?

Any signs of instability? Cracking? Collapsing? Avalanche activity?

How likely is it that your group would trigger an avalanche in this terrain? What would be the consequence of triggering an avalanche in this terrain?

Are you going to proceed?

Day 5 – Vista Lodge – Building a Tour Plan

It’s the morning of Day 5 and one group wants to venture down valley. You’re ready to explore some new terrain. Watch the video below to learn what your group is thinking.

Work through the pre-trip plan section of the tour plan. If you want to write down your answers, you can use this worksheet for notes.

Do any current conditions cause you concern?

What avalanche problems are present?

Is the route down valley appropriate for the current conditions? Would you call it open, on standby, or closed?

Do you have any concerns with the plan to venture into new terrain?