Essential Mountain Education: First Aid Course

Have you ever been hurt in the mountains or been there when one of your friends were? If it was in a ski resort then you likely only had to wait a few minutes before a ski patroller came to the rescue or in the case of it being a more serious injury, called in the cavalry in the form of toboggan or even a helicopter to get your broken self to emergency medical care.
But out in the backcountry it’s a different story. If you are lucky enough to have contact via cell phone or a satellite communicator in an emergency then Search and Rescue can be dispatched to your approximate location straight away, though if the hours of remaining daylight are few, a rescue will often be postponed until the following morning.

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The Wilderness First Responder course gives graduates the skills to stabilize patients in the field and prepare for extraction

So what if someone in your party gets hurt by hitting a tree while skiing, falling into crevasse or sustaining trauma in an avalanche? Rescue could take hours, even days depending on how deep your group ventured into the wilderness. Hopefully someone in the group is carrying a first aid kit and some or all members of the party have done some training. If the injury is serious, the goal is to stabilize the patient, make sure their airway is clear, that breathing is sufficient and blood circulation is not affected. Any bleeds need to be bandaged to make sure loss of blood is kept to a minimum and to limit the effects of shock. Then the patient needs to be treated, whether by bandaging, splinting and in some cases aligning bones to avoid internal bleeding.
If the above information is foreign to you and you spend a lot of time in the backcountry and/or participate in high-risk activities, then it’s time get trained up by taking a first aid course. It could just save the life of one of your friends.

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Some of the items worth bringing into the backcountry | Photo by

Mountain Skills Academy offers the following first aid courses that follow curriculum set by Sirius Wilderness Medicine.

Standard First Aid Course (2 days)
If you’ve never taken a first aid course before this is the best place to start. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator AED training is included and participants learn how to treat airway, breathing and circulation emergencies. Also covered are head and spine injuries, bone muscle and joint injuries and wounds. This course is a prerequisite for many non-mechanized outdoor tour guide jobs and also comes in a wilderness variation with a focus on external environmental factors.

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A trip ending in a helicopter ride isn’t necessarily that fun

Advanced Wilderness First Aid (4 days)
This 40-hour course is the minimum standard for outdoor professionals, guides and instructors who work in a wilderness setting. The above-mentioned subjects are all covered in more detail under the pretense that hospital care is not immediately available. Special emphasis is placed on accident scene management, group leadership, injury prevention and managing the trauma victim. If spending multiple days in the backcountry, someone in the party should have this level of training.

Wilderness First Responder (8 days)
For those wishing to enter the wilderness guiding industry, the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) is an intense 80-hour course covering everything from effects of altitude to helicopter safety, as well as the entirety of the standard and advanced courses. The WFR are a big investment in time and money but incredibly comprehensive and worth taking, even if it’s not required in your profession. The text books from this course also serve as excellent reference sources.

A career in the mountains is not a finite accomplishment, it’s a lifelong development of skills and experience. A First Aid course is a fundamental part of that equation. For more information on preparing for backcountry adventures visit

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For further information about our backcountry tours contact Mountain Skills Academy!

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