AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course

Level 2 Avalanche Course Overview

Understanding avalanches and their dangers is a must for any climber, skier, or backcountry enthusiast. We offer avalanche education courses following the established curriculum of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). Our Level 2 courses take place in the heart of the Pacific Northwest on Mount Rainier and Mount Baker, Washington.

The Level 2 AIARE course is a three-day/24-hour course that provides backcountry travelers an opportunity to advance their decision making skills in more complicated situations such as being a leader within a small travel group, traveling in more complicated terrain, and/or developing a travel plan where resources are scarce.  The course builds on the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the AIARE 1 and adds to it the evaluation of critical hazard assessment factors. Students will describe and discuss weather, snowpack and avalanche processes, and identify how these processes relate to observations and travel within avalanche terrain.

During the field sessions of this course, students receive hands-on experience making decisions in avalanche terrain and practice with avalanche rescue skills. Our courses are offered at a six to one student-instructor ratio.

Many students enjoy pairing this course with our Backcountry Ski Seminar, which focuses on applying the knowledge gained from a Level 2 Avalanche Course and building on it with other helpful techniques for proficient backcountry travel. Together these programs give students all the necessary skills to travel in simple to challenging backcountry terrain with team members of equal or greater training.

Alpine Ascents and AIARE – American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education

Alpine Ascents is proud to partner with The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) to provide avalanche education courses. AIARE is a nonprofit established in 1998 specializing in development of avalanche education curriculum. AIARE’s mission is to save lives through education for recreationalists and professionals. Our instructors are certified by AIARE to teach avalanche education.

Online Curriculum

Our program includes AIARE online education training. With this preparation, students can use the three days with instructors to dive further into avalanche theory and work closely on decision making in the field.

Level 2 Avalanche Course Objectives

This course has been successfully used for educating  skiers, snowboarders, split-boarders, climbers, and mountaineers around the world.

Students will come away with the tools to:

  • Differentiate where specific avalanche hazards exist within the landscape and identify avalanche terrain where consequences may be more severe.
  • Use and interpret weather, snow, and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain prior to entering and while in the field.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills within a small team that include facilitating small group discussion, promoting appropriate terrain selection, and utilizing simple risk management strategies.
  • Implement a basic forecasting framework that can be used in conjunction with and in the absences of local supporting avalanche information.

Prerequisites

  • Participants must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain.
  • An AIARE 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent Level 1 training is required.
  • A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is highly recommended before taking the AIARE 2 course.
  • AIARE or AAA approved one-day Avalanche Rescue Course.

Frequently Asked Questions - Avalanche Course

You will be emailed specific information for your course upon registration. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline.

Do I need to be on skis?

No, you can travel on a splitboard instead. Snow flotation is required for this course.

Does Alpine Ascents rent avalanche equipment?

Yes, Alpine Ascents rents avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes.

What if I only have downhill skis?

You can rent a backcountry ski touring set up from Pro Ski Seattle and Ascent Outdoors. We strongly encourage individuals to reserve them at least two weeks prior the rental date if not sooner. We also recommend practicing with your equipment in a controlled environment so you are familiar with how to get in/out of your bindings.

Is transportation included?

Transportation is not provided for this course, except for courses at Mount Rainier National Park.  For our Rainier courses, we will provide round-trip shuttle transportation from our meeting point in Ashford, WA into the national park.

Do I need chains for my vehicle?

Between November 1 and May 1, all vehicles in Mount Rainier National Park are required to carry tire chains. This requirement applies to all vehicle types in all weather and road conditions.  Weather in the park is notoriously quick to change, and sudden storms can appear with little or no warning.

Tire chains are available for rent at:

Whittaker Mountaineering
30027 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
(360) 569-2142
whittakermountaineering.com

You can read more about the Mount Rainier National Park Tire Chain Requirement here.

For courses at Snoqualmie Passs, chains / all weather tires are encouraged but not required.

Is food provided?

Food is not provided for this course.  You will need to bring lunch and snack foods for the 3 sessions in the field.

Where will we meet?

You will be contacted by the instructor or the office directly regarding the exact meeting time and location for the weekend portion.

Should I tip my Instructor and how much should I tip them?

Although tipping is not a requirement it is greatly appreciated. An average tip for this program is $25-$40 per guide.

Where do I pick up my rental gear for the course?

Please call the office to make arrangements to pick up your rental gear prior to the course.

Reading List

This is our highly recommended shortlist. We would be happy to pass along a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain
Bruce Tremper, Mountaineers Books
The Avalanche Handbook
Peter Schaerer and David McClung, Mountaineers Books
Snow Sense
Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler

Had a fabulous experience. Jonathon is a very competent guide and instructor.

Photo courtesy of Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski
Photo courtesy of Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski

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Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
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