"One of the top avalanche courses in America for adventure seekers."
Curbed Ski Magazine
Our hut based AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course immerses you in avalanche study for four days of intensive learning. This course offers more field time than almost all other Level 1 courses, making it a powerhouse introduction to avalanche safety and decision making.
4-Day Hut Based Program Provides More Field Time
Our hut based AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course maximizes field time by spending 4 days and 3 nights at the Ridgway Hut on the San Juan Hut System. The four day format allows for more backcountry touring and instruction than a conventional three day course and the Ridgway hut provides access to incredible ski and avalanche terrain right outside the front door.
Small Class Size
All of our AIARE Level 1 Avalanche courses are kept to a maximum enrollment of 6 students. The small group size enables each student to receive in-depth and personalized instruction.
Highly Qualified Instructors
All Peak Mountain Guides avalanche instructors are qualified by AIARE as Level 1 instructors, they hold AIARE Level III avalanche certification, and they are certified by the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) as instructors and/or guides. In addition, our instructors are experienced teachers who are highly skilled at communicating avalanche awareness concepts in a clear, concise, and understandable way.
Learn More Backcountry Touring Skills
In our hut based course we are able to teach more backcountry touring skills due to the 4-day format and large amount of time that is spent in the field. You will get in-depth instruction in skills such as map reading, tour planning, wilderness navigation and routefinding, AVA and kick turning, tracksetting, and other special tricks for backcountry touring efficiency that are not typically included in a conventional avalanche course.
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course Description
Our hut based Level 1 Avalanche Course is a 4-day (32 hour) introduction to avalanche hazard management, with an emphasis on decision making. The course provides an introduction to the following concepts, skills, and techniques:
• Avalanche types and characteristics
• Metamorphism and layering in the mountain snowpack
• Avalanche terrain recognition
• Avalanche danger factors and red flags
• Trip planning and preparation including map reading & tour planning
• Routefinding and travel techniques
• Decision making and human factors
• Companion rescue with beacon, shovel, and probe
• Field observations of layering in the snowpack
• Field snowpack tests including the compression test and Rutschblock test
• Use of informational tools including the avalanche bulletin and avalanche danger scale
• Use of decision making tools including the observations checklist and the decision making framework.
Hut Based AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course Sample Itinerary
We meet at 8:00 am at the Peak Mountain Guides office in Ouray, CO where we begin with introductions and an overview of the course. The remaining morning is spent organizing gear, packing food, and reviewing our route on the map. We then begin our approach to the hut, practicing map reading and navigation along the way. Once we arrive at the hut we will begin discussing avalanche types and characteristics, avalanche terrain, metamorphism and layering in the mountain snowpack, and companion rescue. In the evening we will have a field session on companion rescue.
After a hearty breakfast we'll discuss avalanche danger factors and red flags, human factors and decision making, and trip planning and preparation. We will then embark on a ski tour to make snowpack observations, practice terrain selection, and learn snowpack tests. Students will have the opportunity to conduct a compression test, identify layers and a variety of snow grains in the snowpack, and correlate all of this information to the safe selection of a ski descent.
Using our observations from the previous day we will be able to make informed terrain choices for a big, classic ski tour. Depending on snow stability, we may do a peak descent, ski a big alpine bowl or couloir, or do laps through the numerous tree alleys and glades. Our route plan will build in options and escapes for easier or safer tours in the event we find different conditions than expected. During this tour the emphasis will be on application of skills and knowledge, and students will have the opportunity to make terrain selection choices, do the routefinding for the group, and employ travel techniques—all with valuable coaching and feedback from the instructor.
We'll begin our final day with another ski tour out of the hut. Based upon our understanding of the snowpack and the current avalanche issues, we'll find another great ski tour to continue practicing terrain selection, travel techniques, layer identification and evaluation, and of course. . . . powder skiing! We'll ski back to the car in the afternoon and return to Ouray by late afternoon.
*Peak Mountain Guides AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses are located on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests under priority use permit from the Forest Service, USDA. Peak Mountain Guides is an equal opportunity service provider.*