[R46R, Whitefish Mountain Resort] is hosting new avalanche awareness programs this winter put on by a new company called Whitefish Backcountry. The company, launched by owner Ben Stormes, promotes backcountry education-wilderness first aid, avalanche training, and backcountry skills, through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).

Concern for more local avalanche training opportunities increased last winter when two skiers were killed in an avalanche just outside Whitefish Mountain Resort boundaries. "There's no such thing as too much education where avalanches are concerned," Stormes told Onthesnow.com.

Stormes started his company to beef up ongoing avalanche education already provided by the U.S. Forest Service and Flathead Nordic Patrol. "AIARE courses focus on decision making in the backcountry," explained Stormes, adding that AIARE courses maintain a low student-teacher ratio.

Whitefish Mountain Resort plans to host two AIARE Avalanche Awareness presentations put on by Whitefish Backcountry in upcoming weeks. The free indoor one-hour presentations are scheduled for Dec. 28 and Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. in the daylodge.

Other avalanche and skills courses with outdoor hands-on components are scheduled throughout the winter. Stormes and his instructors plan to make use of Whitefish Mountain Resort's new avalanche beacon park for transceiver training; other skills sessions will take place in the backcountry adjacent to the resort. Full schedules of Whitefish Backcountry programs are available.