AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course - Washington Avalanche Training
Decision Making In Avalanche TerrainWe have spent the past 17 years honing our delivery of this program. We developed this course with a mix of IFMGA guides, ski patrollers, DOT workers, and NWAC forecasters to give you diverse perspective as we explore the "dark art" of traveling safely in avalanche terrain.
We are conducting the classroom portion of the program via an online learning course that may be completed by students in advance of the course. We will then conduct a zoom lecture 2 nights before your course covering the classroom portion of the course as well as a short (1-hour) zoom lecture the evening before the course takes place, so that we can discuss the current forecast and make sure our equipment and logistics are dialed in. Online learning will also include quizzes to help you test your retention. You will be able to retake quizzes as needed to understand all the information. We will also have set office hours when you can zoom in and speak with instructors to clarify anything that remains fuzzy in advance of the pre-trip lectures.
The online meeting will run from 6:30-8:30 PM and will be conducted by the field instructors as they prep you to prepare for the terrain, and conditions expected during the field portions of our courses on the weekend. The course is designed to give students a basic understanding of why avalanches occur and to develop a framework for making decisions while traveling in avalanche terrain. We made the transition to doing the lectures online a few years ago and have stayed with it as it reduces the amount of time students spend driving, reduces lodging costs, and provides more field time, which is the most important aspect of any avalanche course.
Additionally the course provides instruction in beacon use and companion rescue should an avalanche occur. Students who successfully complete the course will be given an AIARE level 1 certificate. We also run AIARE Avalanche Rescue Courses and AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Courses for those looking to build on their Level 1 training or enter the AIARE Pro track courses.
What about Courses in January, February, and March?
We have a very full winter and spring scheduled with an expedition to Aconcagua, trips to ski in Japan, and a full Europe Ski Season. As we transition to our new format we are hiring very few guides to work directly with John & Olivia Race and as such only have time this year to run a normal schedule in December. Our total capacity will be much reduced from what it has been in the past years, so we expect the December courses to fill faster than usual. As the industry grows and the need to schedule our time comes under more pressure we need to be more targeted in when we run programs. We feel like there is great advantage in taking your course early in the winter as it will hopefully motivate you to use the skills gained to get out and tour throughout the winter, which is where you really get these skills to stick. We will remain available to assist with decision making as you plan tours throughout the season.
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course Itinerary
Pre-trip Study: You will be sent a link to the online learning component well in advance of the course. This is self-paced and can be completed online. Completion of this materials counts towards 6 hours of your total course time.*
Pre-Trip Orientation: Two days prior to your course you will conduct an evening meeting with our instructors. These meetings will run from 6:30-8:30 pm and will review the online materials, get your ready for your first field day, and give you an opportunity to understand the things that instructors doing in preparation for a day of backcountry travel. This will include a review of the weather forecast, current avalanche forecast, tour plan. You will also be given access to your field instructor the evening before your course to ask questions about the field day or follow up on lecture questions.
Day 1: We begin with a review of the current avalanche forecast, and then we head out for a backcountry tour. During our tour we touch on companion rescue and make observations relevant to our tour and tomorrow's objective. Our goal is to make observations relevant to the avalanche problems we are currently experiencing and help us to anticipate avalanche problems we can expect in the future. We end the day with a short planning session in preparation for the next days full-day tour. (8 AM - 4 PM)
Day 2: This day will utilize different terrain than the area where you toured the day before and will build on our understanding of the current and future snowpack as we undertake a longer tour. Our goal is to have you back to your car and moving towards home by 4 pm. (8am - 4 pm)
Course LocationsDue to the increasing parking challenges at PNW ski areas, courses listed as taking place at Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, etc. will not necessarily meet right at the ski area. We utilize a variety of field locations up and down the highway corridors leading to these ski areas that offer excellent training locations and avoid the pressure of being immediately adjacent to the ski areas. These locations will be chosen prior to your course and you will be given detailed directions on where to meet your group. Our goal is to spread backcountry use during what we anticipate to be a busy season in the backcountry.
Student PrerequisitesThis course will have a backcountry component. During the field day on the last day of the programs we will spend the full day in the backcountry. For this section students will need appropriate alpine touring (AT), telemark, or split board equipment. On many courses there will also be space for participants on snowshoes. Call the office to discuss equipment at 509-548-5823. It is essential that participants show up with gear that will allow them and the group to travel efficiently in avalanche terrain. You do not need to be an advanced skier or boarder for the course, but you should be able to ascend moderate slopes using skins, and should be able to ski downhill effectively in a variety of snow conditions. The goal is not speed, but rather efficiency and safety.
The AIARE ProgramAs members of the American Association of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), we use the AIARE (pronounced "Airy") framework for teaching our avalanche courses. There are certainly other methods for teaching an avalanche course, but this is the one that we have found the most effective and currently seems to closest the US has come to adopting a standard for avalanche education.
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course DescriptionThe level one is a 3 day (24 hour) introduction to avalanche hazard management that combines pre-trip coursework and field activities. The course is expected to:
- Provide a basic understanding of avalanches
- Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain
- Focus on identifying the right questions, rather than on providing "answers."
- Give lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.
Students can expect to develop a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a trip, to understand basic decision making while in the field, and to learn rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person (if an avalanche occurs and someone in the party is caught).
A final debrief includes a knowledge quiz to test student comprehension and to give feedback to instructors on instructional tools. Students are encouraged and counseled on how to apply the skills learned and told that no course can fully guarantee safety, either during or after course completion.
AIARE 1 Student Learning Outcomes
At the end of the Level One course the student should be able to:
- Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain.
- Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain.
- Effectively use the AIARE Decision Making Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting
- Demonstrate effective companion rescue.
Instructional Sessions(24 hours including both class and field instruction):
1. Introduction to the Avalanche Phenomena
- Types and characteristics of avalanches
- Avalanche motion
- Size classification
- The mountain snowpack: an introduction to metamorphism and layering
2. Observations and Information Gathering
- Field observation techniques
- Bonding tests: rutschblock, compression test
- Avalanche danger factors; "Red Flags".
- Observation checklist
- Avalanche danger scale
- Trip Planning and Preparation
- Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
- Route finding and travel techniques
- Decision making and Human Factors
- Companion Rescue and Equipment