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New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5)


Online with Wanaka-based practical. (Online study can take place anywhere in the world. Weekly one hour live web sessions are recorded and available if students cannot make the session, i.e. in a different time zone, working, etc).

Twelve weeks including ten weeks online learning, one week practical and one week reflection (and re-assessment if required)

Classroom, online and on-snow practical study

Intake 1: 25 April to 15 July 2022 (Practical 2 -8 July 2022)
Intake 2: 23 May to 12 August 2022 (Practical 30 July - 5 August 2022)
Intake 3: 6 June to 26 August 2022 (Practical 13 - 19 August 2022)
Intake 4: 11 July to 30 September 2022 (Practical 17 - 23 September 2022)
Note: Intake 2 is the only intake that will cater for students not on skis or snowboard during the practical week.
Until start date
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Wanaka
    26 April 2021
  • Wanaka
    7 June 2021
  • Wanaka
    12 July 2021
  • Wanaka
    5 July 2021

Study professional avalanche risk management with the most experienced provider of avalanche education in New Zealand, in the heart of the Southern Alps.

This course provides the first level of professional training available, enabling participants to work in all sectors of the avalanche industry. 

During this course, you will firstly gain a sound understanding of underpinning theory in your own time. You will then move into solidifying these concepts in a supportive group setting during the on-snow/classroom sessions. 

The course is 12-weeks long. Ten modules will be delivered via online study for ten weeks. This will include weekly, live online study sessions to answer questions and refine concepts. During this ten-week period, you will also be asked to practise on-snow skills. You will then undertake one week of practical and assessment and have one week of reflection, during which you will evaluate your next steps and plan any re-assessment as required. 

Graduates may be employed or work as volunteers under (direct or indirect) supervision, in a range of operations actively assisting in the management of avalanche hazard and risk including: ski areas, heli-ski operations, cat-skiing operations, snow-mobile operations, road contractors, alpine and other outdoor guiding and instruction operations, hunting, trekking, Department of Conservation, alpine search and rescue, and education providers.

Download the Basic Transceiver Competence Attestation

Please note: This qualification replaces our Avalanche Safety Stage 1 course.  

What skills will I graduate with?

The learning outcomes that will be achieved by graduates are:

  • Identify and communicate potential avalanche hazards by applying knowledge of snowpack, weather, terrain and avalanche phenomena (30 credits)
  • Mitigate risk to self by selecting and applying appropriate control methods while operating in avalanche terrain within scope of practice - (5 credits)
  • Participate as part of a small party rescue by applying appropriate avalanche search and rescue skills while mitigating risks - (5 credits)
Entry requirements

Academic requirements 

There are no academic entry requirements for this programme. 

Other requirements

  • Learners must be able to demonstrate evidence of ability to use avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes, evidence of this will be required prior to attending the course.
  • Must be able to move safely and efficiently on all terrain and snow conditions
  • Competence may be evidenced by a document signed and dated by a graduate of the New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5) OR recognised equivalent, OR higher graduate stating that the learner meets the following criteria:
    • techniques for the correct and efficient use of a transceiver are demonstrated
    • a buried transceiver is found in accordance with timeframes and depths specified in industry good practice. 

English Language requirements

If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes

Online learning requirement 

You will require access to online computing facilities to undertake the distance learning packages.

Bridging options
  • If you don't meet the entry requirements, there are a number of recreational level courses (historically, at least four days' in length) available worldwide that will provide the base-level of rescue skills required. 
Selection procedure

After the entry level requirements have been met, selection is based on a first-come, first-served basis until the maximum course numbers have been met.

Additional costs

You will need to provide your own personal outdoor wear and means of mountain transport suitable to a winter alpine environment. This may include adequate footwear, touring skis, split-board, climbing skins or snowboard/snowshoes and poles. A daypack capable of carrying your daily needs is also required (30-40 litre capacity).

Although it is helpful for students to have their own avalanche safety gear and snow/weather observation kits, they may be provided by the Polytechnic upon request. You will be required to pay your ski pass – these are usually available at a significantly discounted rate.

Your workload

The programme is twelve weeks in length. There are ten weeks of online, self-directed study prior to the practical sessions. There are then seven days of practical work up to twelve hours in length (similar to that of working in industry). The final week is available for any re-assessments that may be required and to complete your reflective journal.

Further study options

This qualification can lead to the New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 6) with optional strands in Advanced Avalanche Hazard and Mitigation Planning, Advanced Avalanche Forecasting and Data Management, Advanced Avalanche Search and Rescue Planning, and Avalanche Education.

Programme specific risks

You are advised of the programme specific risks posed during the block courses. These include injury or death from avalanche, environmental exposure or ski touring/motor vehicle accident.   

Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.

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