AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course - Analyzing Snow Stability & Avalanche Hazard 


AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course #2

Course: AIARE Avalanche Level 2

Area: Leavenworth, WA & Central Cascades Backcountry

Winter 2014-15 Dates:
  • January 10-11 & 17-18, 2015 (5 spots remaining)
  • February 12-15, 2015
  • Custom Dates Available

Cost: $525

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Cost Includes
Use of Classroom, AIARE Field Book, Single-ride ticket at Stevens Pass (if needed), 40 hours of instruction.
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Cost Does Not Include
Transportation to/from the course area, personal food, personal climbing equipment, trailhead parking pass fees (if needed), additional books that you may chose to purchase.

Client to Guide Ratio: 6:1

Expedition PDFs 


Equipment List ┬╗

AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course #3
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An AIARE level 2 avalanche course designed to build on the skills covered in our L1 course that will begin to make you more comfortable with the strange blend of art and science that makes up avalanche forecasting.

This is a professional level course and is used to train ski patrollers, mountain guides, and frequent backcountry travelers that want to improve their decision making skills and avalanche knowledge. This course also includes the introductory and prerequisite components for progression to AIARE level 3 programs.

The AIARE Level 2 course builds from the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the AIARE level 1 and adds to it the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation.

The classroom sections of the course are based in Leavenworth, WA and we use a variety of field locations giving us the ability to observe a variety of snowpacks at various elevations. Much of the training takes place in the backcountry and requires participants to be able to move efficiently in a backcountry environment. AT skis or a split board with skins are your best choice for backcountry travel.

The winter 2013-14 courses will be run by Harlan Sheppard and IFMGA guides John and Olivia Race. All three have extensive backcountry experience as both ski guides and avalanche educators. We are excited about this instructor group as it represents quite varied experience ranging from heli guiding to european ski traverses to 8000 meter summit climbs. This wide variety of experience helps participants gain a feel for how decisions are made in the field in situations with either all modern forecasting tools as well as situations where almost no direct observations can be made easily.

We have secured classroom space for the entirely of the course giving us as much flexibility as possible to move between field and classroom once we know what the weather and snow conditions are like during the course.

Student Learning Outcomes 


  1. Advance understanding of avalanche terrain, particularly from the perspective of stability analysis.
  2. Discuss how the snowpack develops and metamorphoses over time; and discuss the factors that contribute to spatial variability.
  3. Learn standard observation guidelines and recording formats for factors that influence or indicate snow stability. SWAG MODULE.
  4. Advance understanding of avalanche release and triggering mechanisms.
  5. Introduce a snow stability analysis and forecasting framework
  6. Improve companion rescue skills including multiple and deep burials.

Instructional Sessions (40 hours including both class and field) include: 


  1. Level 1 Review
  2. Energy balance, the mountain snowpack and metamorphism
  3. Faceting; near surface and near crust faceting
  4. Formation of surface hoar and persistent weak layers
  5. Skier Triggering: theory and observations
  6. International and national snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording guidelines (SWAG) including: weather, interpreting forecasts, recording and observation techniques, snow profile techniques and bonding tests, avalanche observations and recording techniques
  7. Stability analysis checklist: reviewing critical factors including: stability ratings, daily stability forecasts and analysis
  8. Trip Planning and hazard forecasting for avalanche terrain including: the avalanche danger ratings, terrain analysis using maps/photos, forecasting stability and variability
  9. Terrain selection and route finding including: group management and hazard management, decision making & human factors
  10. Information gathering including: site selection and relevancy, spatial variability, and slope tests
  11. Companion Rescue including: level 1 techniques review, managing multiple burials & close burials, review of the latest shovel techniques

Student Prerequisites  

Students must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain. An AIARE Level 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent training/experience is required. A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is recommended before taking the Level 2 course.

Deciding between AIARE Level 1 & Level 2? 

Many people look at the AIARE level 2 and conclude that this is the course for them because it has a more "traditional" focus on forecasting and significant time spent digging pits and performing tests. What AIARE has helped professionals recognize is that this information, while valuable, is not what generally determines whether or not backcountry are caught in avalanches. More important to all users are skills like recognizing avalanche terrain, understanding human factors, and paying attention to obvious clues such as local avalanche forecasts and local avalanche activity. These skills are the focus of the AIARE Level 1 and mastery of these skills is now considered more critical to the average recreational skier with the primary goal of enjoying great skiing while avoiding being caught in an avalanche. The main advantage we see in the AIARE Level 2 is that it provides a foundation for effective communication when experienced backcountry users are trying to share information with others with a similar level of training. Your best bet is to hold off on the AIARE Level 2 course until you have mastered the level 1 materials.

AIARE Level 2 Equipment 

Recommended equipment is covered in detail in our equipment list, but there are some items we would like to point out. If taking the level 2 you should own a beacon, shovel & probe. Ideally your probe will have measurements in 1 cm graduations allowing this to stand in for your ruler. You should also consider picking up a copy of the 3rd edition of the Avalanche Handbook as well as a copy of the snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording guidelines (SWAG). You can view the SWAG here and you can purchase the SWAG here. It is most important to have a basic snow study kit including: Snow thermometer (Celcius required, digital is nice), a Loupe or magnifying glass (10x to 20x magnification), 2 mechanical pencils, and a Crystal screen. We will give you a field book for recording data that includes useful cheat sheets to remind you of the most commonly used items from the SWAG manual published by the US Forest Service. Other items that are not required, but that you might consider include: a compass, altimeter, inclinometer, snow saw, and rutschblock cord. If working as a professional you will already own most of these items. If not working as a professional you might consider bringing what you have to the course and then deciding what to buy at the end when you have had a chance to see all the latest and greatest gear during the course. Brooks Range Mountaineering is a good source for snow science materials.

Logistics 

You must provide your own food, lodging, and transportation during the course. Most days will involve some indoor work in Leavenworth with field sessions taking place at a variety of locations in the mountains surrounding Leavenworth. Our winter 2012-13 courses are based out of the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, located at the mouth of Icicle Creek Canyon.

Lodging Options 

Lodging is not included in the course, but Leavenworth does have a wide variety of lodging options. There is also a possibility that participants from the course may be able to house people from outside the area if you are looking for less expensive lodging options and open to a bit of couch surfing. The following are some of our preferred lodging options.

High End Accommodations near Leavenworth 

Sleeping Lady Retreat and Conference Center
Run of the River Inn
Enzian Hotel

Moderately Priced Accommodations near Leavenworth 

Howard Johnson Inn - Leavenworth
Icicle Inn
Innsbrucker Inn

Rental Space in our friend's mother in law apt 

Der Hundeh├╝tte

Pre-Course Quiz 

This information will be sent to you along with the pre-trip materials, but you will be asked to complete a pre-course quiz and bring this to the course start. The idea behind this it to have you review your own recollection of AIARE level 1 knowledge prior to the course start. View the AIARE Level 2 Pre-Course Quiz.

Portions of this program take place on US Forest Service lands under a commercial-outfitter and guide permits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities and is an equal opportunity provider and employer.