The ORTOVOX Off Piste Awareness Tour 2020 with HAT

Henry’s Avalanche Talk is reinventing our training for the modern COVID world. You will still be able to come and learn more about how to stay safe and have fun off piste. It will just be a different way and with a theme that we keep coming back to over the decades: Safety is Freedom.

We will be showing you how the updated HAT framework works and how to apply it. It is all about learning and applying key accident reduction measures. Because while over 90% of avalanche victims trigger the avalanche themselves, the vast majority did not apply their experience and knowledge at the time of the accident (which includes, most of the time, basic key accident reduction points that were known, but just not followed). So they did ‘know better’, they just weren’t applying what they know at the time.

So in sum:  enjoyment, success, decision making, risk reduction… ultimately getting the most out of the mountain, is not only about learning. It’s about applying, even imperfectly, the points that make going off-piste and touring as safe as the things we do in our everyday lives – like driving to the mountains! 

This ‘framework’ approach provides:

  • a point of departure for beginners
  • a guide for gaining further knowledge for those with experience
  • a context to help with client training for pros

The following events are for all levels. They complement the other training you may have done or are about to do with HAT or with whoever, wherever in the world.

Safety is Freedom!

Thank you to ORTOVOX for their support for this year and previous years in bringing this programme to off piste skiers and ski tourers.

There are four types of events this year.

The Essentials Talk 

A must see talk, full of ‘essential’ information for all off-piste skiers, no matter how experienced you are.

We will be delivering this in a new live online format with Zoom webinar. So it will be online, but it will be live and you can ask questions.


The In-depth Talk

For those who have seen an Essentials Talk at least once and have experience of off-piste skiing, with a guide or on their own. This talk is not a comprehensive tour of avalanche awareness. It is an in-depth look at one subject: Henry will explore how and why avalanches are triggered.

We will be delivering this with Zoom webinar


Avalanche Transceiver Training

A practical session in the UK where you learn how to use a transceiver, shovel and probe to locate a victim in 5 minutes and dig them out in 15 minutes

This will be face to face, live and outdoors. We will be in Wimbledon, Sandbanks Poole, and Manchester.


HAT Academy

This is a new programme to give you a comprehensive and in depth understanding of how to stay safe, manage your risk and have more fun off piste.

This programme will be on Zoom but will be in small groups with a lot more interaction with Henry and the chance to discuss your thoughts with other course participants



This series of off piste awareness training programmes is brought to you with considerable help from ORTOVOX our main sponsor and essential help from Ellis Brigham. We hope to be back in their stores next year.

The theme is all about applying what you know

A particular focus for 2020 will be to show how off-piste skiing and ski touring can be surprisingly safe when ‘the essentials’ are applied. However, it can be surprisingly dangerous if that knowledge is not applied.

The main theme for this year’s talks, above and beyond learning and refreshing ‘the essentials’, is ‘application’, as it becomes increasingly clear that the vast majority of accidents are caused by individuals not applying decision making and risk reduction measures; and this is because of human factors and flaws that are magnified within a mountain environment. The solution is a risk reduction framework that Henry and his team will be introducing and building on in all events.


Founder of HAT, Henry Schniewind, said:

“We’re going to discuss the latest lessons from recent research on Human Factors and how it applies to decision making and risk reduction in the backcountry and off-piste skiing. Why it is that when there are clear clues indicating danger, people who ‘should have known better’ (have the basic training needed in order to recognise these clues) , still get caught out in avalanches?

“In The Essentials talk, we go into the fundamental aspects of how to make decisions and reduce risks in the backcountry: Where you go and when, how you go down or up and how well prepared you are for a crisis. These skills are crucial to risk management and helping to make off-piste skiing and touring as safe as driving to the resort itself … IF applied”


 Henry also describes In-depth talks.

“For the ‘Triggering’ talk we look at how, why and where avalanches are triggered. We follow a 4 step model first introduced by physicist François Louchet and Engineer/Mountain Guide Alain Duclos. We look at how the triggering process evolves, and perhaps more importantly, we look at why avalanches do not release most of the time even though the conditions suggest they should. All in view of better understanding the phenomena to help manage risk. But since success and enjoyment on the mountain in winter conditions is about the consistent application of the key points emphasised in the Essentiels / the Framework,  we continue to work with that context… how to avoid the impulsive action ‘traps’, that lead us astray i.e. not applying our experience and knowledge that leads to most accidents. So we continue to build on  the key points outlined in the Framework and Essentiels talks for all the in-depth talks courses and events, but just in a more ‘zoomed -in way’”.