Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
One thing you learn in first aid class is that any blow to the head that requires first aid should also be dealt with as a neck injury. Besides being another reason helmets are only part of the safety equation, this begs the question: just how exactly do you deal with a suspected neck injury?
If you know, good for you. If not, perhaps it’s time for a first aid course.
While quickie style Red Cross first aid teaching is better than nothing, and an advanced Red Cross first aid course is useful, in my opinion a true wilderness first aid program is the best thing for backcountry skiers who want to extend their backcountry safety program beyond helmets and knee pads. Most first aid training is based on the first minutes before your 911 call produces an ambulance. Wilderness first aid deals with “secondary aid” — the things you do to help a person for hours or even days after an injury.
We just enrolled our teenage son in one such course, a NOLS/WMI Widerness First Aid course hosted by the 10th Mountain Hut Association here in Colorado. They give courses all over the country. Google it up.
Department of backcountry skiing first aid:
Last winter in my avalanche safety diatribes I harped on the fact that if you do rescue a live avalanche victim using your trusty beacon, you might still be in a world of trouble. Avalanches are incredibly violent and powerful. When you find a buried victim they may not just spit out the snow in their mouth, thank you, and start making jubilant powder turns. Instead it’s likely they’ll be at death’s door or even have that door closing behind them. Dealing with such requires training and plenty of it. This type of first aid course costs less than a beacon and shovel, yet is of equal importance in my book. But how many people who own an avalanche beacon have this type of training? I guess it’s our modern culture, we buy the technology and have this inherent faith that doing so is enough. I’ve been guilty of that. While I’ve had extensive first aid training over the years I sometimes let it lapse while I spend money and time messing around with things like my backcountry emergency radios, as if they’re a substitute for right action in the moments after an accident. Time for my own refresher course? Probably.