Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Overview
Ready to step out of bounds and into the backcountry? Knowing how to judge avalanche conditions, where it's more dangerous to travel versus where it is less dangerous, and being able to carry out a successful rescue if caught in an avalanche are essential skills that everyone should be aware of and familiar with before stepping under the boundary ropes and heading into the backcountry.
On average 37 people are killed each year by avalanches in the United States alone. Almost all of these avalanches are started by the people caught in them. Some basic level of training and knowledge can dramatically increase your margin of safety while traveling in the backcountry.
Avalanche Level 1 from
John Grace on Vimeo.
In this three-day course intended for people interested in
backcountry skiing, splitboarding, ski mountaineering, snowshoeing, or virtually any activity in the winter mountains, we will teach students what to look for in the snow pack, how to test stability, how to read terrain and avoid danger zones, and how to rescue themselves and partners if caught in an avalanche.
If you are unable to make any of the scheduled course dates, or are interested in any variation of the AIARE Avalanche program, please contact us.
Course Goals and Objectives
The goals of this course are to:
Provide a basic understanding of avalanches.
Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain.
Focus less on providing "answers" and more on identifying the right questions.
Provide lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field
Analyzing compression test results. Dyan Padagas
The objectives of this course are to teach:
Types of avalanches
Characteristics of avalanches
An introduction to how avalanches form and release
Trip planning and preparation
This course does not cover snow science or avalanche technology in any detail. While it touches on and introduces advanced subjects such as snowpack development and metamorphism, these are discussed at a basic, non-technical level.
Backcountry riders booting up Shuksan Arm after ducking the ropes at Mount Baker Ski Area.
When you leave this course you can expect to have a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a trip, basic decision making while in the field, and rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person if an avalanche occurs and someone in your party is caught. Most of these techniques require extensive practice before you can expect to be proficient and no course, this one included, can provide all that experience.
To establish and maintain proficiency in the knowledge and techniques covered in this course, you will have to practice extensively and regularly on their own after leaving the program.
"The Avalanche Level 1 course was an awesome experience. The instructors were exceptional. The level of professionalism far surpassed any of my expectations. Thank you for a great opportunity. I look forward to taking the Level 2 course next!"
Erin Moriarty (Bellingham, WA)
"I thought the setup of the course flowed very well, with the first day of classroom instruction, the second day in the field reviewing the skills we covered the previous day, and finally the third day of applying everything as you would for a trip you were planning to do on your own."
Bryan Estes (Renton, WA)
"I find snow science and mountain knowledge fascinating, so to have guides that could dish it out at the ready with an answer for every question and experience to back it up was a true treat. I've taken courses before that just didn't seem to deliver on the cost. This exceeded my expectations. Glad I made the decision to go through the AAI and commit the money. Well worth it--thanks to the guides." Adrienne Schofhauser (Seattle, WA)
"The reason for getting this as a gift is because my brother told me he wants to get into backcountry skiing this season. As an experienced backcountry skier myself, I know that this is the best gift I could get him. I won't always be there with him, and he needs to know what he's doing out there, so I hope he learns a lot." Denny Palmer (Helena, MT)
Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Curriculum
American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) was founded to provide instructors with the tools to educate students about the knowledge and decision making skills necessary to travel in avalanche terrain.
The American Alpine Institute's Avalanche Course instructors are AIARE-trained instructors and will teach the standardized AIARE curriculum on each course.
There is no nationally recognized curriculum for avalanche education in the USA. There are many avalanche courses and programs available but in large part, course providers operate according to their own personal beliefs and ideas. There are few means for the public to assess the quality of an avalanche course or instructor.
AIARE was formed to address this situation. They have developed and continue to develop standardized curriculum for a complete program of avalanche courses that meets the needs of students at all levels, from recreational to professional and from novice to advanced.
AIARE has created and will continue to create course materials for instructors and students to maximize the effectiveness of both teachers and learners. They require instructors to meet pre-requisites and attend a training session before they are allowed access to AIARE materials and curriculum. In addition, instructors are required to sign an agreement stating they will abide by the guidelines established by AIARE and they are required to attend regular refreshers to maintain and improve their avalanche knowledge, instructional skills, and their understanding of the evolving AIARE curriculum and materials.
Over the past few years, AIARE has developed an Online Training to go along with the standard classroom and in-field coursework. In the past, this online curriculum was presented as an optional component to the training, even though it added a large amount of value and gave students time to gradually digest the course material over a longer period of time and in the comfort of their own home.
This year, after receiving feedback from both instructors and students on how valuable the online training was in helping students have a better understanding of the concepts presented in the course, AIARE has made the Online Training a mandatory part of the AIARE Rec 1 Curriculum.
The Online Training adds an additional 8 hours of self-paced online instruction to the traditional 3 day/24 hour course to even further deepen students’ understanding of new avalanche terminology and concepts. The online instruction and resources give students the opportunity to go as in depth as needed, allowing students to individualize their instruction. The increase in total instructional time frees up more face-to-face classroom and field time to focus on skills development, giving students more time in the field working with an instructor.
The online instruction is an integral part of this course; it is not a supplementary activity. Students will find themselves significantly behind if they are not able to complete the assignment or look over the content. Since this additional time is critical to the success of each student on the course, registrations for these courses will be closed
1 week before the start date. Through a relevant and engaging assignment, students will develop a basic understanding of avalanche terminology, identifying avalanche terrain, and how the mountain snowpack forms. Knowledge quizzes allow students to check their understanding to be as prepared to take the most away from their face- to-face instruction. They will also learn how to apply the information provided by forecast centers to their trip plans, allowing for more practice planning trips during a course. Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Washington Dates
Bellingham and Mt. Baker Ski Area, Washington - $435
Nov 29 - Dec 01, 2019
Dec 06 - Dec 08, 2019 -
Dec 13 - Dec 15, 2019 -
Waitlist Available Dec 20 - Dec 22, 2019 -
2 Spots Left! Dec 27 - Dec 29, 2019 -
2 Spots Left! Jan 03 - Jan 05, 2020 -
Waitlist Available Jan 10 - Jan 12, 2020 -
Waitlist Available Jan 17 - Jan 19, 2020 -
Waitlist Available Jan 24 - Jan 26, 2020 -
3 Spots Left! Jan 31 - Feb 02, 2020 - Filling
Feb 07 - Feb 09, 2020 - Filling
Feb 14 - Feb 16, 2020
Feb 21 - Feb 23, 2020 -
Waitlist Available Feb 28 - Mar 01, 2020 - Filling
Mar 06 - Mar 08, 2020 -
Waitlist Available Mar 13 - Mar 15, 2020 -
This course needs a minimum of 4 participants.
Want to add 2 days of backcountry ski touring and instruction to your AIARE 1 Course? Check out our
Backcountry Ski and Avy Combo Course!
Special Courses - Bellingham/Mt. Baker
Evening Courses in Bellingham and field days at Mt. Baker Ski Area, Washington - $435
If you can't afford to miss a day of school or work, these courses are a great option. They require TWO EVENING SESSIONS
(6 - 10pm) and two field days in the Mt. Baker backcountry. It is the exact same curriculum as the standard 3-day course, just with the lecture portion broken up and in the evening. They are run in conjunction with the Outdoor Center at WWU and are open to the general public as well.
WWU students receive a $50 discount on these programs!!
Jan 14 & 16
(evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 18 - 19 (field days on Mt. Baker) - 2 Spots Left!
Feb 4 & 6 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 8 - 9 (field days on Mt. Baker) - Filling
Feb 25 & 27 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 29 - Mar 1 (field days on Mt. Baker)
Other Washington Locations
Leavenworth and Blewett Pass, Washington - $435(this course may also go to Steven's Pass, depending on conditions)
Jan 10 - Jan 12, 2020 - Filling
Jan 24 - Jan 26, 2020 - 1 Spot Left!
Jan 31 - Feb 02, 2020
Feb 14 - Feb 16, 2020 - Filling
Seattle and either Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park OR Mt. Baker, Washington - $435
These courses will have their lectures in Seattle in the evening followed by two days of in-field instruction at either Mt. Rainier National Park or Mt. Baker. Evening lectures are typically Tuesdays and Thursdays, however there are a few weeks that the sessions are different. Please read the dates carefully.
Dec 3 & 5 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 7 - 8 (field sessions on Mt. Baker) -
Waitlist Available Dec 17 & 19
(evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 21 - 22 (field sessions on Mt. Baker) - 1 Spot Left! Jan 6 & 8
(evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 11 - 12 (field sessions on Mt. Rainier) - Waitlist Available
Jan 21 & 23 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 25 - 26 (field sessions on Mt. Rainier) - Waitlist Available
Feb 4 & 6 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 8 - 9 (field sessions on Mt. Rainier) - Waitlist Available
Feb 18 & 20 (evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 22 - 23 (field sessions on Mt. Rainier) - Waitlist Available
Hut-based course at Alpine Lakes High Camp
We have partnered with Alpine Lakes High Camp near Stevens Pass to offer AIARE Rec 1 courses. We are also able to host additional private backcountry instruction and guided skiing there. Please click
here to read more about the High Camp and all it has to offer!
Dec 13 - Dec 15, 2019 -
Postponed Jan 03 - Jan 05, 2020 -
Waitlist Available! Jan 24 - Jan 26, 2020 -
Waitlist Available! Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2020 -
Waitlist Available! Mar 13 - Mar 15, 2020 -
Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Motorized Courses
Snowmobile Specific Courses - $475
Leavenworth and Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest or Bellingham and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Nat'l Forest
These courses are specifically for snowmobile and snowbike enthusiasts. The course is broken up into a full-day lecture session in either Bellingham or Leavenworth on Friday, and then the field days will be either on the south side of Mt. Baker or near Sugarloaf Peak, north of Leavenworth, on Saturday and Sunday. Instructors and students will be on snowmobiles for the field portions of the course. In addition to the standard avalanche curriculum, students will learn about special circumstances and situations that are unique to snowmobilers.
If you have a group interested in taking this course, but the dates listed below do not work for you, please contact our office as we may be able to set up a special date for you and your group.
Jan 03 - Jan 5, 2020 (classroom session in Bellingham, field days on Mt. Baker) -
Waitlist Available! Jan 17 - Jan 19, 2020 (classroom session in Leavenworth, field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest) - 4 Spots Left!
Jan 18 - Jan 20, 2020 (classroom session in Bellingham, field days on Mt. Baker) -
NEW! Feb 07 - Feb 09, 2020 (classroom session in Leavenworth, field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest) - 3 Spots Left!
Feb 21 - Feb 23, 2020 (classroom session in Leavenworth, field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest) - 2 Spots Left!
Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Details
If you are a skier or snowboarder, you will need to have previous backcountry experience on your touring skis or splitboard. The field days of your Avalanche Course should not be the first time you are on your backcountry setup. If you do not have this experience yet, you can sign up for either our Into to Backcountry Skiing Course or our Intro to Splitboarding Course before taking your AIARE 1. If you do not have previous backcountry experience and are not able to attend one of these Intro Courses, please plan on using snow shoes for the field days of your AIARE 1 Course. If snowboarders do not have a splitboard, you are welcome to use snowshoes for the hike uphill then snowboard down, however this can often be more cumbersom.
In addition to the backcounty experience mentioned above, you should also:
Have good physical fitness, including being able to hike for multiple hours with a 20 - 35lb backpack with minimal breaks
Be able to dress appropriately for being outside in snowy, winter conditions and be outside for a full day
Be able to maintain your personal nutrition and hydration needs throughout the day (you may not have an official break for lunches - these are often done "on the go" - so you need to be able to manage your personal needs in this regard). If you have extenuating circumstances, please be sure to notify both the Administrative office when registering and also notify your Course Leader on the first morning of your course so they are aware.
AAI Equipment Shop rents avalanche gear, including beacons, probes, and shovels. Pricing for two days is as follows: Avalanche Kit (beacon, probe, shovel): $35 Beacon only: $25 Probe only: $14 Shovel only: $12
We also have packs and ski poles for rent, see AAI
rental pricing sheet.
The AAI Equipment Shop now has a great selection of Dynafit skis and boots to suit your backcountry rental needs! WE NOW HAVE BACKCOUNTRY SKIS!
If you are a snowboarder and would like to venture into the backcountry, you can rent our boards and use your boots! WE ALSO HAVE SPLITBOARDS!
Once you are enrolled in a course with AAI, you are then eligible for a 15% discount on all rentals and regular priced retail merchandise.
See AAI rental pricing sheet or contact our shop at 360-671-1570 for more information.
There are also skis and snowboards available for rent at the
Glacier Ski Shop at 360-599-1943.
Logistics and Lodging for Bellingham Courses
The course runs 7:30am to 5pm each day, you must provide your own transportation, food and lodging throughout the course. The classroom session takes place near AAI's equipment shop. We are located 90 miles north of Seattle on I-5. To get to AAI, take Exit 250 (Old Fairhaven Pkwy) and turn west toward Fairhaven. After 1 mile you will reach a stoplight at 12th Street. Turn right on 12th Street and park immediately. AAI's administrative office is the first building on the right, the equipment shop is the second house on the right.
Day 1 - We meet at 7:45am at the Our Saviour's Lutheran Church for the classroom session. After finishing at 5pm, you will have an hour to deal with any rental equipment needs for the next two days in the snow. on the corner of 18th St and Harris Ave (1720 Harris Ave)
Day 2 - Meet at 8am at Mount Baker Ski Area which is a 1 hr 15 min drive from Bellingham, for a day spent in the field. See the Mount Baker Ski Area website .
Day 3 - Meet at 8am at Mount Baker Ski Area for the second field day, practicing the skills you learn in the previous days, and executing a planned backcountry ski tour.
Stay each night in a Bellingham hotel and commute both to AAI and Mt. Baker Ski Area each day. The Four Points by Sheraton provides discounts to all AAI program participants; just let them know you are on an AAI course. The address and phone is
714 Lakeway Dr, Bellingham, WA 98229 - (360) 671-1011. Another option is the Days Inn at 215 Samish Way, Bellingham - (360) 734-8830. Camp for approximately $25 per night at
Larrabee State Park, located 5 miles south of AAI right on the beach. There are plenty of vacation rental cabins in the town of Glacier, 20 minutes from Mount Baker Ski Area. See
Mount Baker Lodging for cabin options. There is usually a two-night minimum. You can check availability for the Mount Baker Lodge, which is owned and operated by The Mountaineers. This is the only place to stay that is actually at the ski area, and is very economically priced. It's a rustic place, and you must pitch in with chores. Go to the
Mountaineers website for more information on the lodge.
Avalanche Training - AIARE 1 Related Courses
United States - Alaska
United States - Washington
United States - California
United States - Nevada
United States - Colorado
United States - Utah
Canada - British Columbia
South America - Argentina
South America - Bolivia
South America - Ecuador
South America - Patagonia
South America - Peru
Europe - Alps and Caucasus
Asia - Nepal and Tibet
Asia - China
Asia - Japan
Africa - Tanzania
Pacific and Antarctica
By Program Type
Group Summit Climbs
Private Guided Programs
Treks, Tours, & Backpacking
Corporate Outings & Services
Government & Military
Trekking and Backpacking
Skiing & Snowboarding
Guide Training & Rescue