March 14, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 10

Students make grade in avalanche class

Fourteen eighth-graders will receive “Avalanche 1” certification, following a program offered at Haines School.

The students received 20 hours of classroom instruction and spent eight hours in the field, said physical education teacher Lexie DeWitt.

Field training included using locator beacons, assessing snow stability and digging test pits to check ski conditions, she said. “They can recognize snowpack, terrain and weather conditions that relate to being safe in the mountains.”

Besides visible hazards, the class involved discussions of human factors, including decision-making, she said.

DeWitt said parents approached her about doing the class months ago. “We have cold water safety. We have hunter safety. This fills out the puzzle for the kinds of classes we need to offer.”

DeWitt said goals of the class included incorporating geography and math into the activities used during the field day.

Guides with Alaska Mountain Guides and Alaska Heliskiing volunteered in teaching the class.