AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course


Our AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course takes place at Hurricane Ridge and in Port Angeles, and is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of avalanches, decision making in avalanche terrain, and avalanche rescue.

Concepts emphasized on this course:

  • A systematic approach to gathering and interpreting information, and deciphering variables in the process of decision making in avalanche terrain.
  • Identifying the right questions, instead of memorizing rules.
  • Lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.
  • Trip planning
  • Understanding and mitigating human factors

This course is 3 days in length and includes 24 hours of instruction: Two-thirds field based, one-third classroom based.

This is an AIARE standard course. Upon successful completion of the course students will receive their AIARE Level 1 certificate.  This course will lay the groundwork for students interested in taking a a future AIARE Level 2.


• Avalanche types, characteristics, and terrain
• Formation of layers in the mountain snowpack
• Human factors
• Trip planning
• Equipment considerations including airbag backpacks, Avalungs, and modern transceiver technology
• Companion rescue
• Field observations, including snowpack tests
• Travel techniques

Need avalanche gear? We have a limited number of transceivers, shovels, and probes available for students to use, courtesy of Backcountry Access. Please make arrangements with us in advance.

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course with Pacific Alpine GuidesS

Day 1: Classroom Session
Day 2: Field Skills Session
Day 3: Terrain Day/Backcountry Tour

Classroom Session

Classroom presentations will cover a full range of topics including avalanche characteristics, terrain recognition, snowpack layering, decision making, and human factors. We’ll discuss methods for trip planning, including web resources such as the Northwest Avalanche Center and remote weather stations.

Additionally, we will discuss modern backcountry skiing/riding equipment including airbag backpacks, the Avalung, and digital transceiver technology.

Field Skills Session

The focus of this day in the field will be on learning and practicing companion rescue and field observation techniques.

Hands-on lessons will include transceiver searches, probing, and strategic shoveling as well as snow pits, including layer identification and snowpack tests.

Terrain Day/Backcountry Tour

On this last day of the course we tie it all together with a full day tour in avalanche terrain, making real life decisions.

The day begins with a brief planning session, looking at the current avalanche bulletin and weather forecast.

Our goal will be to cover a good variety of terrain while integrating additional lessons into the day, including methods for quickly gathering information, travel techniques and group management, and applying the Decision Making Framework in a real world context.

Throughout the day the instructor(s) will step back into a facilitator role and allow students to work through key decisions as a group.

The course will wrap up with a debrief, presentation of certificates, and a closing discussion.

Need rental gear? Transceivers, shovels, and probes are available for avalanche students to use free of charge, but please make arrangements with us in advance. Information on where to rent other equipment (such as AT or tele gear) is available on our Rental Gear page.

Download PDF

Notebook & pencil

 Options: skis (AT or tele), splitboard, or snowshoes*: Should be suitable for uphill and downhill travel.
Boots: AT or tele boots, snowboard boots, or winter boots suitable for snowshoeing.
Poles: Adjustable recommended.
Climbing skins: For AT, tele, and splitboard setups.

* Note: Cross country ski gear will not work for this course.

We have a limited number of transceivers, shovels, and probes available for students to use, courtesy of Backcountry Access. Please make arrangements with us in advance.
Transceiver: Modern, single frequency [457 khz] transceiver, preferably less than five years old. A digital 3-antennae model is highly recommended (ex: BCA Tracker 2, Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Peips DSP).
Shovel: Lightweight avalanche shovel. A metal blade is recommended (avoid plastic), as well as an extendable handle (ex: G3 Avitech, BCA Companion EXT).
Probe: Dedicated probe, ski pole probes are not sufficient.
Daypack: 25-40 liters, should have some form of ski/board attachment system. 

There are many possible layering combinations for your upper body. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: Patagonia Capiline 1 or 2).
Lightweight insulating layer: Light fleece or synthetic layer (ex: Patagonia R1 Hoody).
Softshell or shell jacket with hood: For wind, snow, rain, cold, etc.
Puffy (insulated) jacket: Synthetic or down, preferably with a hood (ex: Patagonia Micro Puff).

Baselayer bottoms: Light to medium weight (ex: Patagonia Capiline 2).
Ski pants/bibs: Hard shell or softshell.
Socks: Wool or synthetic, they should work well with your ski boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not heavy socks.

Warm hat
Sun hat: Baseball cap/visor (weather dependent).
Face protection: Buff® recommended.

Light gloves
Ski gloves

Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
Lip balm: With SPF protection.
Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Water bottles should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
Thermos (optional)

If you have any of the following items, please bring them:
Airbag pack
Snow saw
 Snow study kit
• Crystal card
• Magnifying loupe
• Inclinometer
• Compass
• Folding ruler
Ski strap
Repair kit: We suggest carrying a small repair kit with items specific to your ski or splitboard equipment. Extra binding parts (including mounting screws), an extra tip loop for your skins, an extra pole basket, etc. Other great MacGyver items are bailing wire, zip ties, and duct tape.
Watch: Altimeter recommended.


  • No previous experience is required for this course.
  • Intermediate skiing or riding ability is recommended.
  • Some previous ski touring experience is recommended.
  • Participants interested in taking the course on snowshoes or cross-country gear should contact us.


  • Good physical fitness is required for this course.


  • Participants should be prepared to spend full days in adverse winter weather conditions.


    • Guiding & instruction
    • AIARE Field Book (waterproof Rite-in-the-Rain)
    • AIARE Course Materials
    • Use of BCA avalanche gear available (transceiver, shovel, probe)


    • Food, lodging & transportation
    • Park entrance fees (free with a park pass or $5/day x 2 days)


TBD in Port Angeles, WA. Participants will receive an email the week before the course with final logistics.



Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to Port Angeles takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Option B: Fly into Port Angeles. Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination).

Car Rental

Many options exist in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.

Shuttle Services


Many options exist in Port Angeles including hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels.


Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.


Port Angeles & Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

3 days

6:1 or 12:2 max

Dec 19-21, 2014
Jan 9-11, 2015
Jan 23-25, 2015
Feb 6-8, 2015
Feb 20-22, 2015
Mar 6-8, 2015

$295 per person

1 Day Refresher Course
Custom Rates


Register Online

“I have been around many avy awareness classes, but the AIARE Level 1 presented by Pacific Alpine Guides is many magnitudes more in-depth than any of them.”

–D. Pitman (see full review at