Backcountry Ascender – updating services for 2017-2018 season

The Backcountry Ascender Program is a free and simple backcountry and avalanche educator

by Ed Klim, President, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

Panorama picture of sled in foreground with blue skies and mountains in background.
The Backcountry Ascender Sled 360 partnership with the members of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association is entering its second season, supporting snowmobiling safety. Photo courtesy Kirsten Armleder

Haslett, MI, October 12, 2017: The Backcountry Ascender Sled 360 partnership with the members of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association is entering its second season, supporting snowmobiling safety.  The Backcountry Ascender Program is a free and simple backcountry and avalanche educator. The platform uses educational gamification and good-natured competition to encourage rider awareness and improve backcountry knowledge, skills, and practical experience.

The engaging and competitive platform consists of industry and peer reviewed curriculum, self-directed lessons and in-person courses. Snowmobilers earn points for completing lessons and courses to increase their ranking, as well as their associate clubs, state associations, dealers, and snowmobile brands.

The objective of the program is to help disseminate knowledge and improve avalanche awareness and education for all snowmobilers. Based on last year’s results, we are seeing positive preparedness and proficiency behavior changes as riders from all across North America and the world are practicing using their avalanche equipment and signing up for Avalanche Awareness classes.

A quick review of last year’s Executive Summary highlights the positive reception the program has received from snowmobile enthusiasts worldwide:

  • The number of page views last year: 144,275
  • Number of users: 9,830
  • Number of conversions: 3,320
  • Number of completed stories and /classes: 13,586
  • Number of individual sessions while on the website: 30,671

Looking at the age breakdown of usage of the website:

  • 9% age 18-24
  • 27% age 25-34
  • 20% age 35-44
  • 27% age 45-54
  • 7% age over 55

The website is an international website. 64 per cent of the usage was by United States residents, 35 per cent of the usage was by Canadian residents. Avalanche education in all of its different forms has shown a dramatic 92 per cent  drop in avalanche fatalities across North America!

Surveys are showing that many of the snowmobilers taking the online Backcountry Ascender 360 class are signing up for upper level avalanche classes on snow with recognized, certified instructors.

The snowmobile manufacturers, through the Ascender 360 program, are working closely with the American Avalanche Association and Avalanche Canada to expand formal avalanche education opportunities for snowmobilers.

Yes, the program has been a great success and many of the online classes and sorties have been updated this year with fresh content to include the American Avalanche Association and Avalanche Canada curriculum updates.

Avalanche education is an ongoing pursuit that requires yearly proficiency. Each level has two sorties that will expire every season and will have to be redone. This encourages individuals to revisit the site and once they redo the sorties, they will receive the level badge back again.

This year there are more prizes available, including 30% discounts on many of the classes offered and free courses will be awarded from the Ride Rasmussen Style team from the Mountain Skills team, and from the Frozen Pirate Snow Services group. Prizes will also be available to folks who haven’t taken an avalanche rescue or level one avalanche training yet, but provide proof of registration for an upcoming course this season. A prize list will be published on the Ascender 360 website in the near future. Be sure to follow for updates.

There will be special awards presented to groups at this year’s 2018 International Snowmobile Congress, held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The following categories will be recognized at the ISC:

  • Top snowmobile association
  • Top avalanche center
  • Top snowmobile club
  • Top rider

Interest in the educational program continues to grow. As we prepare to ride this winter, remember the key guide points:

  • GET THE GEAR: Ensure everyone has an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe on their person and knows how to use them
  • GET THE TRAINING: Take an avalanche course
  • GET THE FORECAST: Make a riding plan based on the current avalanche and weather forecast
  • GET THE PICTURE: If you see recent avalanche activity, unstable snow exists. Riding on or underneath slopes is dangerous.
  • GET OUT OF HARM’S WAY: One at a time on all avalanche slopes. Don’t go to help your stuck friend. Don’t group up in runout zones.

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