AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course

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!

  • 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:

 Why take your avalanche course from Sawtooth Mountain Guides?

  • Experience. We began teaching avalanche courses nearly 30 years ago!
  • Instructors. Our instructors are highly-trained and nationally-recognized avalanche professionals with years of guiding, ski patrolling, and avalanche forecasting experience.
  • AIARE Curriculum. AIARE courses are developed by a nation-wide collaboration of avalanche experts and are professionally reviewed.
  • Unmatched Venue. We offer courses at the Williams Peak Hut, where avalanche terrain right out the door maximizes field time. Courses based in Stanley or Ketchum/Sun Valley benefit from contrasting snow climates within a short distance from classroom locations.
  • Fun: Avalanche education doesn’t need to be dry and boring. Our friendly and engaging instructors will keep things interesting, and our world-class terrain is sure to provide some exciting skiing!


Williams Peak Hut, Sawtooth Mountains

  • January 4-6, 2019 (FULL)
  • January 11-13, 2019 (FULL)

Stanley (Field: Banner and Galena Summits)

  • January 18-20, 2019 (FULL)
  • January 25-27, 2019 (12 spots left)
  • February 1-3, 2019 (6 spots left)

Ratio: 5:1

 Williams Peak Hut: $725/person

 Stanley: $450/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.