“Backcountry Avalanche Awareness” by Jamieson and Palechuk
What’s the best book for skiers and riders beginning their avalanche education journey? I often recommend “Backcountry Avalanche Awareness” by Bruce Jamieson and Terry Palechuk. (Yes, I do feel the earth shaking because I didn’t recommend the ubiquitous “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain.” Bruce Tremper’s book is excellent and should be on your shelf, but I recommend the former for a few reasons.)
First, it’s an easy yet comprehensive read, covering all of the topics required for a solid foundation in avalanche education. It explains avalanche characteristics, avalanche terrain, and mountain snowpack. It also coaches readers on how to recognize avalanche risk, develop good backcountry habits, and reduce risk. It is the perfect preparation for your level 1 course and beyond.
I also appreciate the authors’ craftsmanship and accuracy. (Not surprising based on the experience and reputation of said authors.) And I marvel that Jamieson and Palechuk haven’t let the foot off the gas since they started this project—the book has been consistently updated and improved (currently in its ninth edition) since its initial publication in 1989. (We might see yet another update in the near future.) It’s widely read in Canada (both Jamieson and Palechuck are Canadians), yet is often overlooked in America.
One recommendation for Americans: In the supplement to chapter eight, they recommend The Avaluator, which is an online and portable Canadian decision-making aid. We recommend Americans replace that with the decision-making tools and risk-management framework provided in AIARE’s curriculum.
While this book is no substitute for an avalanche course, it will help you get more out of one. You can purchase the e-book here. You can also find used copies widely available on the Internet.
Through backcountry skiing, Paul Rogers has found incredible happiness, lasting friendships, and the opportunity to traverse the snowscape across Europe and North America. He founded Powder Cloud to help others safely find the same.