Logistics

8:00 a.m. Course Location

We will meet at 8:00AM the morning of our field sessions at or near the course venue. During the Zoom meeting with your instructor in the days prior, they will provide detailed directions to the meeting point. Please be aware that the course venue may be forced to change due to weather, conditions, or road closures.

Transportation

Transportation is not provided. You will need snow tires or chains to travel to your field session venue. If you are renting a car, please be aware that most car rental agencies do not permit you to use chains with their vehicles. However, you can try to rent a car from Turo and select “all-wheel drive, ski rack, and snow tires/chains” to find a vehicle that is winter ready. If you are in this situation, we recommend checking Turo well in advance to try and secure an appropriate vehicle to safely get to your course.

Winter Travel Advisory

Mountain road and mountain pass conditions can change dramatically over the course of a day. Please check the WSDOT website for conditions reports. Participants are responsible to ensure their vehicle meets WSDOT travel standards which could include required snow tires, chains, and/or AWD or 4WD. We strongly encourage participants to carpool when possible.

Mount Rainier Courses
For courses at Mount Rainier, the group will meet in Ashford, WA. Alpine Ascents will provide transportation from Ashford to the Paradise trailhead in Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Baker Courses
Between November 1 and May 1, all vehicles on Hwy 542 up to Heather Meadows  are required to carry tire chains. This requirement applies to all vehicle types in all weather and road conditions.  Weather on Hwy 542 is notoriously quick to change, and sudden storms can appear with little or no warning. Please check the WSDOT website for current condition reports.

Snoqualmie Pass Courses 
For courses at Snoqualmie Pass, chains/all weather tires are encouraged but not typically required unless mandated by the Washington Department of Transportation.  Please be sure to check the WSDOT Twitter feed for the latest information.

Crystal Mountain Courses
For courses at Crystal Mountain, chains/all weather tires are encouraged but not typically required unless mandated by the Washington Department of Transportation.  Please be sure to check the WSDOT Twitter feed for the latest information.

Stevens Pass Courses
For courses at Stevens Pass, chains/all weather tires are encouraged but not typically required unless mandated by the Washington Department of Transportation.  Please be sure to check the WSDOT Twitter feed for the latest information.

Blewett Pass Courses
For courses at Blewett Pass, chains/all weather tires are encouraged but not typically required unless mandated by the Washington Department of Transportation.  Please be sure to check the WSDOT Twitter feed for the latest information.

AIARE Online Curriculum

We’re excited to offer pre-course online curriculum to complement your AIARE I. You will be sent these online learning materials upon registration for your course.

This online course will provide you with additional learning to help you make the most of your AIARE I. The online course entails six hours of self-paced instruction covering terminology and practice skills you will use on your course. While the online course only takes six hours to get through, we strongly recommend spreading the instruction over several days. Give yourself extra time to learn the content rather than trying to cram it in all at once. The more time you spend with the material, the more you will be able to take away from your course.

*The online instruction is an integral part of this course; it is mandatory, not supplementary. You will find yourself significantly behind if you do not complete the online portion of the course, and will not receive a course completion certificate.*

Please contact [email protected] with any technical questions.

Zoom Meeting

You will have a mandatory Zoom meeting from 7-9PM PST on the Tuesday prior to your first field session.  SheJumps courses will have this meeting from 7-9PM on Wednesday.  You will receive an invitation from your instructor several days before the meeting.

We’ll be using this time to get to know one another prior to our field session. You will have ample opportunity to ask your instructor questions about course materials as well as the plan for the field sessions. We’ll also aim to accomplish the objectives below.

  • Practice using weather modeling and avalanche forecasting websites
  • Create a tour plan for our first field session
  • Review the gear list

Additional Online Resources

Prior to your course, we recommend becoming familiar with your local avalanche forecast center. In Washington, we are fortunate to have the North West Avalanche Center. If you are unsure of your local avalanche center, Avalanche.org can help you find the nearest avalanche center.

Interactive Online Educational Resources

 

Field Sessions

During the Zoom meeting, your instructor team will outline detailed logistics on meeting time and location for the field sessions.  Please plan on the field session starting at 8am and running until 4pm. It is critical you arrive prepared with the required equipment. If you have any equipment questions please reach out to [email protected].

Please be aware that the course venue may be forced to change due to weather, conditions, or road closures.

Rainier

Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft), is the highest volcano and largest glaciated mountain in the contiguous U.S. This alpine giant is famous for its superior climbing as well as its pristine wilderness. The vast glaciers and alpine ridges of Mount Rainier offer endless stunning backcountry touring options.  With the parking at Paradise a lofty 5,400′ above sea level, we are transported right into Rainier’s legendary deep snowpack.

  • The Paradise area at Mount Rainier is known for its snowfall which attracts skiers and snowboarders from across the country to its slopes.
  • We are one of the few guiding services that is able to operate in Mount Rainier National Park and our guides are deeply familiar with the terrain and the best snow stashes.
  • Mount Rainier is one of the most popular ski mountaineering areas in the Cascades – and for good reason. There is abundant snow and huge variety of backcountry and skiing opportunities for those that travel past the parking lot.

Mount Baker

Mt. Baker (10,781 ft.), the highest point of the North Cascades, is a heavily glaciated dormant volcano. The twelve active glaciers of Mt. Baker cover an area exceeding 20 square miles. Mt. Baker is unique in its great mass of snow and ice and easy accessibility. This combination creates a perfect training ground for backcountry skiing and riding.

  • Setting the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season (1,140′ in 1999), Mt. Baker remains one of the snowiest spots in the Pacific Northwest and the world, attracting skiers and snowboarders from far and wide.
  • The Heather Meadows area offers a plethora of prime ski tours for skiers/riders of all ability levels. From wide bowls, to tight trees, with no shortage of spiny lines, the Baker backcountry is the stuff of legend.
  • On a clear day, backcountry travelers can bask in panoramic views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker.

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass (3,100 ft), is located less than an hour from Seattle and offers a convenient escape from the city.   A combination of high snowfall, easy accessibility, and desirable slopes and epic couloirs make Snoqualmie Pass one of the best zones in Washington and exceedingly popular with backcountry travelers of all experience levels.

  • The roadside ski tours around Snoqualmie Pass and beyond are unusually steep and access excellent terrain. Plus, there are a lot of them! Some have called Snoqualmie Pass one of the densest ski touring areas in the country by pure volume of runs.

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain (7,012 ft), lies just northeast of Mount Rainier National Park and offers sublime views of the peak on a clear day. While it’s not as lofty as Mount Rainier proper, Crystal sits much higher than other spots in Washington which makes for excellent snow quality.  Skiers can expect a mix of intermediate and advanced terrain, but beginners won’t be left out. If you like gladed tree skiing, you’ll love Crystal.

  • Skiers enjoy more infrastructure at Crystal compared to other ski areas in Washington. There’s no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat après ski and it’s a relatively chill two hour drive from Seattle.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass (4,062 ft), set deep within the Cascade Mountains off of Highway 2, is best known for deep snow and amazing tree skiing.

  • Yodelin, a retired ski area just northeast of Stevens Pass, is a favorite zone featuring open glades and liberally spaced trees.  Plus, the approach is short.

Blewett Pass

Blewett Pass (4,101′) is a hidden gem of backcountry ski terrain.  Expect fewer crowds, drier snow, and more sunny days than options further west.

Required Gear

Having the proper equipment is essential for backcountry travel. Link back to your gear list:

Many of these items are available to rent through Alpine Ascents’ Gear Department. If you plan to rent from us, you can pick up gear during business hours (9am-4:30pm) on Thursday or Friday before your course.

Food

Students need to bring their own lunches for the two field training days. These are long days, so please plan to bring about 1,000 calories of food.  Here’s a sample lunch pack:

• Cold pizza, fresh sandwich, or burrito
• Bagel with meat & cheese
• Piece of fresh fruit
• Trail mix
• A bakery cookie
• Small bag of chips or similar salty snack
• Cold drink mix for your water

A training course such as this requires a much higher energy expenditure on a daily basis than what you may be used to. Eating well and frequently not only sustains energy levels but also keeps positive morale and attitude. By nature, mountains have periods of inclement weather and it is important that caloric intake be high and regular to help avoid hypothermia and other cold weather or altitude-related problems.

Gear Tips

Check out these blog posts with gear tips:

What’s Weighing You Down? – Tips to Keep Your Ski / Splitboard Pack Light
To Buy an Avi Airbag or Not?

This video walks through how to pack for a day of ski touring:

Lodging between Field Days

Lodging between your two field days (night of Day 1) is not provided as part of this course. You are welcome to book lodging wherever you prefer near the course venue, or return home that night if you live locally. Below are some suggestions based on the venue of your course.

Rainier

The closest town to our Rainier courses is Ashford, Washington. A few options are below, but many others exist. There are many excellent Ashford rentals on AirBNB as well.

Whittaker’s Bunkhouse
Phone: (360) 569-2439
Website 

Nisqually Lodge
Phone: (360) 569-8804
Website

Alexander’s Lodge
Phone: (360) 569-2300
Website

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass is about 55 miles east of Seattle. There are many rental options on AirBNB in the general vicinity as well as the hotel listed below. Otherwise, it is a very reasonable drive from Seattle which has many lodging options at all price points.

Summit Inn
Phone: (425) 434-6300
Website

Baker

The closest town to our Baker courses is Glacier, Washington (~ 22 miles).  It’s a very small town and there are not traditional hotels.  However, there are excellent and affordable rentals on AirBNB. Bellingham, Washington is farther away (~60 miles) but is a much larger town and has more lodging options and restaurants. We recommend finding a hotel on your preferred travel booking site at a price point that works for you.

Crystal Mountain

The closest large down to Crystal Mountain is Enumclaw (42.4 miles away) which has numerous hotel and AirBNB options. Greenwater (23.7 miles away) is much smaller, but does have several excellent housing options such as the Alta Crystal Resort.  If you’d like to stay at the course venue, Crystal Mountain Hotels offers three slope side lodging properties at Crystal Mountain: The Alpine Inn, The Village Inn and the Quicksilver Lodge. There is also RV camping available in the parking lot.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass falls between the town of Skykomish (16.2 miles away) and Leavenworth (35.2 miles away) and while options exist in either town, the faux Bavarian village of Leavenworth has many more hotels, restaurants, and has livelier atmosphere overall.   There are many more options than we have space to list here, and recommend finding a hotel on your preferred travel booking site at a price point that works for you.

Blewett Pass

Blewett Pass is about 30 minutes away from the faux Bavarian village of Leavenworth. There are many more options than we have space to list here, and recommend finding a hotel on your preferred travel booking site at a price point that works for you.

LNT

Alpine Ascents International practices Leave No Trace principles on all expeditions. We believe that given the proper information most people will do all they can to help protect and maintain the environment. Please Visit:

7 Principles of Leave No Trace

As guides, we spend time teaching the environmentally appropriate Leave No Trace principals and practices. There is nothing more beautiful than working hard to get high into the mountains, come upon a pristine campsite, witness incredible views and have the feeling that no one has been there before.

Conversely, there is nothing more disheartening than working hard to climb a mountain, reaching a site and encountering trash, food waste and toilet paper. Please read the seven LNT principles, and call the office if you have any questions about what you can do to plan ahead.

Tipping

Guides are permitted to accept and greatly appreciate tips. An average tip for the guide team is $25-50.

Please be aware that we are unable to process tips by card. You are welcome to tip your guides with cash or via mobile payment such as Venmo or PayPal.

Course Certificate

Upon successfully completing your AIARE Level 1, you will have a permanent account with AIARE. In the weeks after your course, you will receive an email directly from AIARE with your account login information. This login will give you access to your course certificate. If you have not received that email within 30 days of course completion, please email [email protected].

Backcountry Ski Seminar Discount

This AIARE Level 1 Course focuses specifically on understanding avalanches and risk management in avalanche terrain, but it does not cover the other skills necessary for backcountry safety and success. There’s a lot that can’t fit into these weekend AIARE field days. To further develop these other skills, we strongly recommend taking the Intro to Backcountry Touring course after your AIARE Course.

This two-day seminar is an excellent way to integrate your new understanding of avalanche hazard into the bigger equation of having a fun and successful day of backcountry skiing.

Students who have completed an AIARE Course with us receive a discount of $75 on Backcountry Ski Seminars in the same season. Please contact our office for more details.

COVID-19 Protocols

While we cannot eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, we do carry out a variety of measures designed to mitigate the risk of illness for AIARE course students and staff. It is important we work together with the same team-oriented perspective we rely on in climbing, and we greatly appreciate your partnership. Please take a few moments to thoroughly read the information below and know that we look to improve our operation as additional information about the virus becomes available.

Vaccinations & Testing

We expect all climbers attending this program to be vaccinated.

Screening

If you experience fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea please immediately contact Alpine Ascents. Anyone experiencing these symptoms within 14 days of their trip date will be asked to reschedule their trip.

Face Masks

While traveling in the mountains, all climbers are required to have a face mask easily accessible in a waterproof bag (Ziploc, etc.). When social distancing measure are not feasible, you may be requested to wear your mask.

Rental Equipment

All equipment at Alpine Ascents is disinfected in line with CDC protocols, using EPA-registered disinfection supplies certified to mitigate COVID-19.

I’ve got a few small trips on the radar with Alpine Ascents later in 2019, but I think the most concise statement of praise I can offer is that I’m truly excited to see where things go from here as we look forward into 2020 and beyond.

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

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course BLOG

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    by Jonathon Spitzer  Backcountry skiing and splitboarding encompasses a broad spectrum of ski endeavors, from off-piste riding out of a resort to ski day touring to overnight ski expeditions. I adjust my kit based on the type of skiing I’m doing, the same way you would when doing a day of top rope climbing versus […]

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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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