8:00 a.m. Course Location
We will meet at 8:00AM the morning of our two weekend field sessions at or near the course venue. During the Zoom meeting with your instructor, 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 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.
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.
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.
You will have a mandatory Zoom meeting two days prior to your first field session. For a weekend courses, for example, the Zoom meeting will fall on Thursday. The meeting will run from 6 – 8PM PST. 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 weekend. We’ll also aim to accomplish the objectives below.
- Review the gear list
- Practice using weather modeling / avalanche forecasting websites
- Create a tour plan for our first field session
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
- Know Before You Go
- Rescue at Cherry Bowl
- Snow Fall – The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
- Avalanche Education Tutorial
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 5pm. 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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out these blog posts with gear tips:
This video walks through how to pack for a day of ski touring:
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.
Phone: (360) 569-2439
Phone: (360) 569-8804
Phone: (360) 569-2300
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.
Phone: (425) 434-6300
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.