Wilderness First Responder


Teaching WFR

A lecture in the outdoor classroom.

Have you ever been three-days from a trailhead with no cellphone reception and thought about what would happen if someone got hurt? What if a snake bit someone? What if someone fell off a cliff?  What if a member of your party suffered a heart attack? Maybe you have a sat phone or a personal locator beacon, but if you are in the real wilderness, then even with those modern conveniences an evacuation may take a very long time.

Medical professionals in urban areas identify the time period following trauma or a serious medical incident as "the golden hour."  The goal is to get patients from the accident site or from the place where the medical incident took place to the hospital rapidly, and ideally in less than an hour. Those who receive prompt medical care are statistically the most likely to survive.

The problem with wilderness medicine is that you're in the wilderness.  It is very difficult to evacuate a patient to definitive medical care in less than an hour. A fast evacuation from the backcountry may take four or five hours. A slow evacuation may take four or five days.

The Wilderness First Responder course and certification were created specifically for those who spend significant time in the wilderness, on personal trips or professionally, who might encounter a serious medical situation.  The eighty-hour course covers everything from minor medical ailments to severe trauma.  It also covers the issues that you will encounter caring for a patient over a period of hours or even days while awaiting evacuation.


Wilderness First Responder and Outdoor Education

Mountain climbing guides, river guides, hiking guides, and backcountry rangers are usually required to have a WFR certification in order to obtain employment. Most land managers in the United States require commercial guides to hold WFR certifications. And every individual that one might be responsible for in these professions expect their guides and rangers to have a Wilderness First Responder certification.


Backcountry Medical Guides

The American Alpine Institute has partnered with Backcountry Medical Guides (BMG) to offer these courses. Backcountry Medical Guides (BMG) is a 501(c)(3) Non Profit Organization specializing in designing and facilitating wilderness medical training programs. They provide a wide range of accredited, sport-specific medical training courses for mountain bikers, trail runners, skiers and snowboarders, mariners, and general wilderness medicine. BMG has a dedicated group of instructors who strive to teach the highest quality and most relevant programs for participants while incorporating experiential education in a guided experience.


Wilderness Medicine Training Center

The American Alpine Institute has also partnered with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC) to offer these courses. The WMTC was founded in 1997 by Paul Nicolazzo and incorporated in 2008 in Washington State. With over 35 years experience leading trips and training staff in challenging environments, Paul started WMTC because he believed there was a better way to effectively educate people in wilderness skills, rescue, and medicine. Under Paul's guidance WMTC instructors have honed their instructional techniques while keeping up with cutting edge wilderness medicine. WMTC instructors are considered to be some of the best outdoor emergency care instructors in the world. 

Wilderness First Responder


The Wilderness First Responder course is an 80-hour program that was designed to provide outdoor educators and active outdoor practitioners with the skills they need to deal with a wide array of medical issues and traumatic injuries in the backcountry. Curriculum includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Scalp Laceration

Students tending a scalp laceration and concussion..

  • Pharmacology
  • Patient Assessment System 
  • Basic Life Support
  • Wilderness Adult and Child CPR
  • Head Injuries
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Volume Shock
  • Extremity Injuries
  • SOAP Evaluation Process
  • Splinting
  • Wound Management
  • Spine Assessment
  • Dehydration
  • Sunburn
  • Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke and Hyponatremia 
  • Hypothermia and Cold Injuries
  • Near Drowning
  • Spine Management
  • Wilderness Bites and Stings
  • Allergies
  • Lightning Injuries
  • Altitude
  • Dislocations
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes: Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia
  • Heart Attack, Angina and Stroke
  • Issues with Ears, Eyes, Nose, Throat and Teeth
  • Improvising Litters, Backboards and Litter Carries

Wilderness First Responder

Dates & Details


Backcountry Medical Guides Standard Wilderness First Responder

  • Jun 17 - 21, 2024 FULL! Waitlist available
  • Aug 12 - 16, 2024 - New session added!
  • Sep 09 - 13, 2024
  • Dec 14 - 18, 2024


This course combines online self-paced precourse work with a highly immersive in-person training in the beautiful Bellingham wilderness. You must complete the online learning portion within 30 days of the in-person skills training and assessment.  

Length: 5 Days

Location: Bellingham, WA.

Cost: $715


Backcountry Medical Guides Wilderness First Responder for Backcountry Skiers and Snowboarders

  • March 4 - 9, 2024 - FULL! WAITLIST AVAILABLE!

This course combines online self-paced precourse work with a highly immersive skills training in the backcountry in the Snoqualmie National Forest. You must complete the online learning portion within 30 days of the in-person skills training and assessment at Mt. Baker. 

Length: 6 days

Location: Mt. Baker

Cost: $1565

*Prerequisites: Intermediate to advanced ski/snowboard ability in the backcountry. Your own full backcountry set up and at least one day using your gear. Physical ability to walk 5 miles and up 2000 ft. in a single day. Basic understanding of how to transition from uphill to downhill mode and vice versa. Avalanche rescue course is preferred but not required. Avalanche rescue shovel, beacon, and probe.


Wilderness Medicine Training Center's Standard Wilderness First Responder

  • None Currently Scheduled

The Outward Bound sessions are part of their Semester Course and we have partnered with them to make the course possible.  They have asked us to have outside students enroll as early as possible so that they know how many spots are available for OB participants.

Length: 9 days

Location: Various, see dates above

Cost: $850


Veterans Benefits

Students looking to use Veterans Benefits (GI Bill®) to pay for their course must enroll in a Washington State-based program. The VA will not pay for courses outside of Washington. 



Most programs do not include accommodations. However, at some venues, they are available for an additional fee. Accommodations at each program location vary dramatically. If you are interested in a particular program, please contact the AAI office for details.


Private Programming

Any portion of this program, either the complete program or individual pieces of the program may be provided to a private group at any appropriate location. Courses are note available to individuals on a private basis. Please call the AAI office for details. 


Wilderness First Responder

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