AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course

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

*For Winter 2021/2022, all guests and guides participating in a guided hut trip must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24-48 hours of the start of the trip. Masks will be required inside the Williams Peak Yurt.*

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.

Is this course right for me? This course is targeted for new backcountry skiers and riders who are familiar with their equipment and have enough backcountry touring experience to feel comfortable moving around in winter backcountry conditions. This is important because it is very difficult to simultaneously learn about your equipment, learn how to ski in the backcountry and also absorb the curriculum.

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. For Boise courses, click here. Let us teach you how to minimize your risk while maximizing your skiing or riding!

  • PREPARE for backcountry travel by tracking conditions, investigating trip options and practicing rescue during realistic scenarios.
  • Develop a trip PLAN utilizing the current avalanche advisory.
  • Apply the RIDE SAFELY checklist to monitor conditions and communicate associated hazard and risk with your group.
  • Apply the RIDE SAFELY checklist to recognize avalanche terrain and choose terrain that matches the current conditions and skills of the group.
  • Contribute to a TEAM that travels and decides together, listens to every voice, challenges assumptions and respects any veto.
  • Routinely instigate and participate in a group DEBRIEF to intentionally develop experience.
  • Create a plan for continuing development of skills and experience.

Day 1:

  • Course Introduction and Outcomes
  • Introduction to the AIARE Risk Management Framework
    • Track the Season’s Changes
    • Investigate Trip Options
    • Avalanche Rescue
  • Field: Avalanche Rescue

Day 2:

  • PLAN:
    • Assemble Your Group
    • Anticipate the Hazard
    • Plan Your Route
    • Discuss Your Emergency Plan
  • RIDE SAFELY Checklist
  • Field Ski Tour: Observational Techniques, Snowpack Tests, Avalanche Terrain

Day 3:

  • Field Ski Tour: Putting It All Together – Practicing the AIARE Framework
  • Course Wrap Up and Evaluation
  • Course ends 4:30pm

 Difficulty: Good fitness, advanced downhill ski skills

  • 5 days of previous backcountry skiing experience or completion of either of SMG’s Sun Valley Intro To Backcountry or Bogus Basin Intro To Backcountry courses.
  • Proficiency using backcountry skiing equipment (skins, bindings, boots, etc…i.e. the course will not be your first time using your gear in the backcountry)

 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 14-16, 2022

Stanley (Field: Banner and Galena Summits)

  • January 14-16, 2022
  • January 21-23, 2022
  • February 4-6, 2022 (Full)
  • March 11-13, 2022

Ratio: 5:1

 Williams Peak Hut: $900/person

 Stanley: $505/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.