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.
- 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 techniques
- Understanding and mitigating human factors
This is an AIARE standard Level 1 avalanche course. Upon successful completion, students will receive the AIARE Level 1 certificate of completion. 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 avalanche course students to use, courtesy of Backcountry Access. Please make arrangements with us in advance.
AIARE LEVEL 1 COURSE SCHEDULE
Day 1: Classroom Session in Port Angeles
Day 2: Field Skills Session at Hurricane Ridge
Day 3: Terrain Day/Backcountry Tour in the Hurricane Ridge zone
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.
AIARE LEVEL 1 AVALANCHE COURSE
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.
☐ NOTEBOOK & PENCIL
METHOD OF WINTER TRAVEL
☐ OPTIONS: SKIS (AT or TELE), SPLITBOARD, or SHOWSHOES*: 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.
AVALANCHE SAFETY 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.
☐ TRANSCEIVER: Modern, digital transceiver, preferably less than 5 years old. A 3-antennae model is highly recommended.
☐ SHOVEL: Lightweight avalanche shovel with a metal blade (avoid plastic) and extendable handle.
☐ 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.
☐ LIGHTWEIGHT INSULATING LAYER: Light fleece or synthetic layer.
☐ SOFTSHELL or SHELL JACKET with HOOD: For wind, snow, rain, cold, etc.
☐ PUFFY JACKET: Synthetic or down, preferably with a hood.
☐ BASELAYER BOTTOMS: Light to medium weight.
☐ 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
☐ MEDIUM GLOVES or MITTS
☐ LIP BALM
☐ WATER BOTTLE(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
• 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 and instruction with AIARE Qualified Instructor(s)
- AIARE Field Book (waterproof Rite-in-the-Rain)
- AIARE Course Materials
- Use of BCA avalanche gear available (transceiver, shovel, probe)
- Food, lodging and transportation
- Park entrance fees (free with a park pass or $5/day x 2 days)
WHERE TO MEET
TBD in Port Angeles, WA. Participants will receive an email the week before the course with final logistics.
AIARE LEVEL 1 AVALANCHE COURSE REGISTRATION
- Register online
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Contact Us page
- Give us a call: 888-674-8492
Once we have you confirmed on your course, you will receive a confirmation via email. Final information including meeting time and location, any updated gear recommendations, contact information for your instructor(s), and other logistical considerations will be sent out 1-2 weeks prior to the start of the course.
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).
Many options exist in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.
- Olympic Bus Lines offers twice daily shuttles from Sea-Tac to Port Angeles.
- Rocket Transportation offers door to door service between Sea-Tac and Port Angeles by reservation.
There are many options in Port Angeles including hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels.
- Red Lion Hotel – Contact us for a Pacific Alpine Guides discount code.
- ToadLily House International Hostel
- Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
- Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper.
- Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Martin Volkin, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler.
What is AIARE?
AIARE stands for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Anyone can offer a “Level 1″ avalanche course, which can mean anything from an evening session at the local gear shop, to a three day intensive course. An AIARE Level 1 avalanche course:
- is based on the AIARE curriculum, developed and continually refined by some of the top avalanche professionals in North America.
- includes a minimum of 24 hours of instruction.
- is 1/3 classroom based, 2/3 field based.
- is taught by AIARE Qualified Instructors and offered through an AIARE provider.
I took a Level 1 avalanche course a number of years ago. Should I take the Level 2?
We strongly encourage taking our AIARE Level 1 course prior to considering the AIARE Level 2. Even very experienced backcountry travelers are surprised how in-depth we go on the AIARE Level 1, and with the evolution of our understanding of the avalanche phenomenon, decision-making, and equipment, this will likely feel more like an entirely new learning experience, than a review of information you already know.
Our AIARE Level 1 Refresher is a 1 day option, however we only recommend this for people who have taken the AIARE Level 1 in the last 3 years.
“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 Ridgestyle.com)
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