It's always wise to know a little bit about the surface you are traveling over and through, whether you are backcountry rider seeking out pristine snowfields or a day skier content on spending your time on the groomers.

[R266R, Mt. Baker] is conducting a series of Snow Safety Awareness clinics this season to help you learn.

Although the resort has three different types of programs - the 100 level, the 200 level and the 300 level - the 200 level is probably the best for most skiers and snowboarders.

The so-called Intermediate level is a 20-hour snow safety skills course spread over three days that covers most types of hazards. Mt. Baker believes that those who successfully complete this course should be able to identify basic grain types and weak and strong snow layers, to perform field tests to determine snowpack stability, to recognize weather and terrain factors contributing to snowpack instability, to perform rescue through fast and efficient transceiver use, and to apply safe travel techniques. This course will be held Jan. 17-19 and Feb. 14-16 - and costs $150 ($140 for Mt. Baker season pass holders).

Skiers and snowboarders who wish to obtain less thorough knowledge of snow safety techniques might want to check out Baker's one-day introductory clinics. These seven-hour class will be held Jan. 25, Feb. 7, and March 1 and cost $25.