AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course

Level 1 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 courses take place in the heart of the Pacific Northwest on Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.

This comprehensive 24-hour course introduces students to the necessary decision-making tools for managing risk while traveling in avalanche terrain. It is designed for all individuals recreating on snow in the mountains whether skiing, split-boarding, snowshoeing, climbing, or mountaineering.

Our AIARE avalanche education program is comprised of a flexible online curriculum coupled with a Zoom meeting with instructors, followed by field sessions on Saturday and Sunday in the backcountry. It is the same curriculum as the standard three-day course, with the classroom portions occurring online, allowing participants to learn at their own pace without missing a day of work or school.

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 1 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. This online training allows students to move at their own pace, learning about the avalanche phenomenon prior to the field sessions of the course. With this preparation, students can use the two days with instructors to dive further into avalanche theory and work closely on decision making in the field. The online education generally takes 4-6 hours and can be completed at any time prior to the course. We will also be hosting a 2-hour Zoom meeting with the instructors on the Thursday prior to the field weekend to go over additional education topics, answer any questions, and prepare for the field portion of the course.

Level 1 Avalanche Course Objectives

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

Course will cover:

  • Understanding the avalanche phenomenon
  • Mountain weather
  • Identifying avalanche terrain
  • Reading and applying local avalanche forecast
  • Avalanche companion rescue
  • Understanding snowpack observations
  • Traveling techniques in avalanche terrain
  • How to prepare for backcountry travel

Students will come away with the tools to:

  • Plan and facilitate making decisions in the backcountry
  • Create and execute a tour plan for traveling in the backcountry
  • Find relevant current avalanche forecast resources
  • Efficiently identify avalanche terrain

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.

When is my Zoom meeting with the instructor?

The meeting will run from 6-8PM PST on the Thursday before your field session.

Do I need to be on skis?

No, you can travel on snowshoes or 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.

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 Mount Baker and 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 weekend 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.

How do I get to Alpine Ascents International?

Click Here for Map

  • From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street Exit and follow the signs to Seattle Center/Space Needle. (A quick right turn onto Fairview Ave., and a quick left turn onto Valley St., which becomes Broad Street.)
  • After you pass the Space Needle on your right, make a right turn onto Denny Way.
  • Proceed to 1st Ave. North and turn right.
  • Proceed to Mercer Street and turn right.
  • We are located at 109 West Mercer Street, directly across the street from Bank of America and Next Door to Ozzie’s Tavern.
    Street parking is limited to 2-hour zones and parking meters, though there are several pay lots near our offices.
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

The expedition was amazing. The guides were great and encouraging along the way and helpfully. We always knew what to expect as a group and the next objective ahead. The guides were provided helpful tips along the way.

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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