Learn the key elements of making sound decisions while traveling in avalanche terrain.

This AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course – Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain course will teach you trip planning and preparation, interpretation of the avalanche bulletin, observational techniques for snowpack, weather, and avalanches, terrain analysis, safe travel techniques, and decision-making fundamentals. Students will also learn the elements of companion avalanche rescue and practice using realistic scenarios. This course follows the Avalanche Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) curriculum and is taught by AIARE Qualified Instructors.

Our nationally recognized instructors and unmatched learning environment (i.e. incredible ski terrain!) will provide the best possible education experience during your AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course. We offer courses based at our Williams Peak Hut in the heart of the Sawtooths, as well as programs based in Stanley or Ketchum/Sun Valley. Let us teach you how to minimize your risk while maximizing your skiing or riding!

Not all avalanche courses are created equal…read more reasons to take your course from SMG!

  • Understand key decision making concepts and how these affect our risk
  • Develop a trip plan and choose appropriate terrain before heading into the backcountry
  • Learn to make and record appropriate field observations
  • Work as a team to make good decisions and terrain choices
  • Practice safe travel techniques in avalanche terrain
  • Demonstrate effective companion rescue during realistic scenarios

Day 1:

  • Course Introduction and Outcomes
  • Introduction to Decision Making
  • Avalanche Fundamentals
  • Mountain Snowpack
  • Companion Rescue and Scenarios
  • Case Study: Teamwork and Avoiding Human Factors

Day 2:

  • Making Snowpack, Weather, and Avalanche Observations
  • Field Ski Tour: Observational Techniques
  • Observation and Snowpit Documentation
  • Decision Making: Choosing Terrain and Traveling Wisely

Day 3:

  • Trip Planning
  • Field Ski Tour: Choosing Terrain and Traveling Wisely
  • Course Wrap Up and Evaluation
  • Course ends 4:30pm

Difficulty: Good fitness, advanced downhill ski skills

Duration: 3 days/24 hours

Meeting Time: 8am

Meeting Location: Sawtooth Mountain Guides Headquarters in Stanley

What We Provide:

  • Highly trained, professional, and fun AIARE avalanche instructors
  • AIARE Level 1 Course Manual and Field Notebook
  • Avalanche rescue equipment if needed
  • For hut-based courses:
    • All food (we will ask you to carry a small 5-10L bag of food to the hut)
    • 2 nights at the William Peak Hut
    • Sleeping bags at the hut – we will provide a compact sleeping bag liner for you to carry in

What You Need:


Williams Peak Hut, Sawtooth Mountains

  • January 5-7, 2018 (6 spots left)
  • January 12-14, 2018 (6 spots left)

Stanley (Field: Banner and Galena Summits)

  • January 19-21, 2018 (spots available)
  • January 26-28, 2018 (spots available)

Ratio: 5:1

Williams Peak Hut: $695/person

Stanley: $425/person

This can be taught as a Private Course. From a recreational perspective, we’ve found that taking a course with your regular touring partners can be more effective and fun. Your group will come away from a course speaking a common language, having practiced similar skills, and ready to use a shared risk management process.