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 are offered in the heart of the Pacific Northwest on Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.
This course is designed for all individuals recreating on snow in the mountains whether skiing, split-boarding, snowshoeing, climbing, or mountaineering. Alpine Ascents offers a comprehensive 24-hour course that introduces students to the necessary decision-making tools for managing risk while traveling in avalanche terrain.
Our 24 hour AIARE avalanche education program is comprised of Thursday and Friday evening sessions at Alpine Ascents in Seattle, followed by field sessions on Saturday and Sunday in the backcountry. It is the same curriculum as the standard three-day course, broken up into two consecutive evening classroom sessions, allowing participants to join without missing a day of work or school.
During 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 courses 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.
Our program also includes the AIARE online education training at no additional charge. This online training allows students to move at their own pace, learning about the avalanche phenomenon prior to the course. With this preparation, the three days with instructors can 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.
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.
Please contact the office for assistance if you cannot attend the same Thursday/Friday weekend session.
No, you can travel on snowshoes or a splitboard instead. Snow flotation is required for this course.
Yes, Alpine Ascents rents avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes.
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.
Transportation is not provided for this course.
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:
30027 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
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.
Food is not provided for this course. You will need to bring lunch and snack foods for the weekend sessions in the field.
The evening sessions are held at Alpine Ascents International in Seattle, WA from 6pm-9pm. You will be contacted by the instructor or the office directly regarding the exact meeting time and location for the weekend portion.
- 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.
Although tipping is not a requirement it is greatly appreciated. An average tip for this program is $25-$40 per guide.
You will pick up your rental gear at our offices during the gear check.
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.
Overall, this was an experience beyond my expectations. In the past, I have found that an Alpine Ascents expedition, whether a climb or a trek, has been the envy of other groups – and this trek was no exception. Every aspect of the trek was first-rate