Avalanche Training - AIARE 1

COVID-19 UPDATE:  AAI has reopened as of June 20, with new policies and procedures for COVID-19. Click the following links to learn more about AAI's COVID-19 Operating Plans and cancellation policy.

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.

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
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Travel techniques
  • Decision making
  • Avalanche rescue

 

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. 

 

Course Summary

Backcountry riders booting up Shuksan Arm after ducking the ropes at Mount Baker Ski Area.

Backcountry riders booting up Shuksan Arm after ducking the ropes at Mount Baker Ski Area.
Coley Gentzel

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.


Testimonials

"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

AIARE Curriculum Transition

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.

Avy 1 - AIARE

 

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.

 

Online Curriculum

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 30 & Dec 2 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 5 - 6 (field days)
  • Dec 8 & 10 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 12 - 13 (field days)
  • Dec 15 & 17 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 19 - 20 (field days)
  • **Dec 21 & 23 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Dec 26 - 27 (field days)
  • **Dec 28 & 30 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 2 - 3 (field days)
  • Jan 5 & 7 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 9 - 10 (field days)
  • Jan 12 & 14 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 16 - 17 (field days)
  • **Jan 18 & 20 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 23 - 24 (field days)
  • **Jan 25 & 27 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 30 - 31 (field days)
  • Feb 2 & 4 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 6 - 7 (field days)
  • Feb 9 & 11 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 13 - 14 (field days)
  • **Feb 15 & 17 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 20 - 21 (field days)
  • Feb 23 & 25 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 27 - 28 (field days)
  • Mar 2 & 4 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Mar 6 - 7 (field days)
  • Mar 9 & 11 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Mar 13 - 14 (field days)

**These sessions have the evening lectures on Mon & Wed.

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!! 

  • 2020/2021 dates are still being determined. 

 

Other Washington Locations

Leavenworth and Blewett Pass, Washington - $435
(this course may also go to Steven's Pass, depending on conditions)

  • Jan 5 & 7 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 9 - 10 (field days)
  • Jan 19 & 21 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 23 - 24 (field days)
  • Jan 26 & 28 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 30 - 31 (field days )
  • Feb 9 & 11 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 13 - 14 (field days)

 

Seattle and either Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park  OR  Mt. Baker, Washington - $435

These courses will have their lectures online in the evening followed by two days of in-field instruction at Mt. Rainier National Park. Evening lectures are typically Tuesdays and Thursdays, however there are a few weeks that the sessions are different. Please read the dates carefully.

  • Jan 5 & 7 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 9 - 10 (field days on Mt. Rainier)
  • Jan 19 & 21 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 23 - 24 (field days on Mt. Rainier)
  • Feb 2 & 4 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 6 - 7 (field days on Mt. Rainier)
  • Feb 16 & 18 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 20 - 21 (field days on Mt. Rainier)

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 two online evening lecture sessions in either Bellingham or Leavenworth on Tues & Thurs, 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 12 & 14 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Jan 16 - 17 (field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest)
  • Feb 2 & 4 ( online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 6 - 7 (field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest)
  • Feb 16 & 18 (online evening lectures 6-10pm), Feb 20 - 21 (field days in Okanogan-Wenatchee Nat'l Forest)

Avalanche Training - AIARE 1

Details

Prerequisites

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.

 

Rental Equipment

Avalanche Gear

The 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: $35
Probe only: $15
Shovel only: $12

We also have packs and ski poles for rent, see AAI rental pricing sheet.

WE NOW HAVE BACKCOUNTRY SKIS!
The AAI Equipment Shop now has a great selection of Dynafit skis and boots to suit your backcountry rental needs!

WE ALSO HAVE SPLITBOARDS!
If you are a snowboarder and would like to venture into the backcountry, you can rent our boards and use your boots!

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 (except for the 2020/2021 session, lectuers will be online). 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 on the corner of 18th St and Harris Ave (1720 Harris Ave) 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.
  • Day 2 - Meet at 7:45am 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 7:45am 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.

 

Lodging Options

  1. 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.
  2. Camp for approximately $25 per night at Larrabee State Park, located 5 miles south of AAI right on the beach.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

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