Here’s an Opportunity to Fill Out an AM Form with Coaching

The AM form is a 3-page document. Don Carpenter is going to walk you through an exercise, completing an AM form, based on information from a day in the backcountry around Jackson, WY. In this three part video series, Don will present the information he uses to complete the forms. There will be downloadable links to each page of the AM form, as well as to the resources that Don presents. Take the time to complete each page and then check your completed AM Form against the answer key.


Fill out PAGE 1 of the AM Form. You can download it below.


Fill out PAGE 2 of the AM Form. You can download it below.

Fill out PAGE 3 of the AM Form. You can download it below.

CMAH – The Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard

Have you ever wondered what process avalanche forecasters go through when they are putting together the avalanche hazard rating and the forecast?

The Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard is a system for building a hazard forecast. It works through a variety of variables, including what avalanche problems are present and where they are located, and the likelihood and consequence of triggering an avalanche.

Dave Kikkert is going to walk you through the process of developing an avalanche forecast.

Here is a paper about CMAH.

Issue 38.3 of The Avalanche Review has several articles about CMAH.

Tracking the Weather and the Season History

Before heading out into the backcountry, it is important to ask, “Is the weather contributing to instability?” The weather can directly contribute to instability with new snow, strong winds, and/or warming temperatures.

Tracking the weather throughout the season can highlight additional ways that the weather may contribute to instability over a longer time period. Weak layers, such as facets and surface hoar, can be formed during periods of cold, clear, and calm weather. These weak layers become problematic when they are buried.

A season long view of the weather history can help to pick out trends. Season histories can also be very useful if headed into a new area.

Here is a video discussion weather factors to pay attention to, as well as information on why we track season history.

Introduction to the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center Forecast

The Bridger Teton Avalanche Forecast Center covers the mountains around Jackson and Alpine, WY. There are three forecast areas in this region – Teton Area, Togwotee Pass, and the Greys River Area.

The following video walks through the website in an effort to highlight the information that Sarah and others use on a daily basis.

Is this your forecast region? You can find it at

Documentation for Recreational Users – Understanding Shorthand Documentation

In the world of snow and avalanches, there are a lot of short hand abbreviations. Short hand documentation is used when recording avalanches, as well as when recording snow pits and stability tests. Having a foundational understanding of some of this shorthand can be useful when reading avalanche forecasts and communicating with forecast centers.

Want more? You can find all of these short hand symbols and more in the Snow, Weather and Avalanche Guidelines (SWAG). This is the professional handbook for documentation in the U.S..

Avalanche Problems – Identifying and Understanding the Different Avalanche Problems

Checking the avalanche forecast and understanding the avalanche hazard rating for the day is important. It is also important to dig deeper and understand what, if any, avalanche problems are forecasted for the day.

Understanding avalanche problems can aid in more effective route planning. If there is a forecasted wind slab problem at upper elevations on ENE aspects, you can plan a route that avoids these areas, or you can plan a route into this zone with a backup plan for if the problem is present.

Let’s take a deep dive in to Avalanche Problems with Don Carpenter.

Now let’s talk about the specific problems one by one.

And now let’s spend some time discussing how avalanche problems fit in to the forecasting process.

Grant Statham of Parks Canada gave a great TED talk about risk. You can find it here.

How to Communicate About Avalanches Like an Industry Professional

As a backcountry traveler, it is important to be able to communicate about avalanche activity – how big an avalanche was, what started it, where it was.

When avalanches are documented, it is typically written as TYPE-TRIGGER-SIZE-BED SURFACE.

For example: SS-AS-D2-O for Soft Slab, Artificial Skier, Destructive Size 2, Old Snow.

This video covers how professionals document avalanches. As an advanced recreationist, it is important to understand this language.

It can be hard to remember all of these symbols and short hand documentation. Use the Snow, Weather and Avalanche Guidelines (SWAG) as a study guide. Page 50 is where the avalanche observations section starts.

It can be tricky to estimate avalanche size. Here is a video discussing a more visual method for rating the size of avalanches.

And if you want to practice this, here is a video that runs you through a variety of avalanches and offers you an opportunity to estimate the avalanche sizes.