How cool is a school that teaches avalanche awareness?

JACKSON HOLE, WYO –A revolutionary high school program in Jackson teaches students the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the intermountain west: avalanche awareness.

The curriculum is a combined effort of the American Avalanche Institute, Black Diamond, and Exum Mountain Guides. It has been steadily has gaining momentum over the past few years since its inception. Started by a group of motivated high school teachers who also double as outdoor experts, the informal movement is now a Level 1 avalanche certification class that imparts students with the knowledge needed to thrive in the intermountain west.

Scott Crisp (Mark Fisher)

Jackson Hole High School principal Scott Crisp says, “In my experience it’s very unusual to see that perfect combination of this exploratory end with a tangible skill you learn, combined with meeting specific Wyoming state standards in the sciences that are learned in the classroom. We are very fortunate here in Teton County to have some outstanding educators who work in our school system but also have the skills in the outside world to teach kids about outdoor education because a lot of these students live outside every day.”

Off to class. Course work in the field includes shreddin’ the pow…after you make sure it’s stable, of course. (Mark Fisher)

One of those instructors is Jackson Hole Middle School science teacher Trevor Deighton. He also happens to be an American Avalanche Institute instructor and Exum Mountain guide. He got involved after seeing his 7th and 8th grade students up on Glory at 5:45am skiing the backcountry before school like he was. He wanted them to be able to do it safely.

Students of the program learn every aspect of snow, snowpack, and how to stay safe in the backcountry. (Mark Fisher)

“Sixty percent of high school seniors and 60 percent of eighth graders are going into uncontrolled avalanche terrain,” says Deighton of the student body in Jackson Hole. “My job as an educator is to help students be career and life ready—and career and life ready in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is having an understanding of avalanches.”

American Avalanche Institute’s Sarah Carpenter acknowledges the program is cutting edge with some 20-40 students finishing with their Level 1 certification.

It’s one more way the school district is preparing students for life.

“We live in a tremendously risky environment in the outdoors. When you combine that with the teenage brain, well, we want to make sure we are providing every tool we can for students who are in the backcountry,” Crisp adds.

Sixty percent of high school students spend time in uncontrolled avalanche terrain. (Mark Fisher)

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