Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain

Our AIARE  Level 1 Avalanche Program will teach you the key elements of making sound decisions while traveling in avalanche terrain.The 3-day course effectively combines classroom time and field sessions to provide a comprehensive overview of avalanche hazard recognition and evaluation. This course is a nationally recognized Avalanche Level 1 Course.

This intensive, hands-on training will cover 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.  It is geared toward skiers, boarders, and other outdoor enthusiasts who want to build winter backcountry skills. 

Course Details

Morning sessions introduce avalanche concepts to students. Afternoon field sessions in backcountry terrain provide hands-on experience and ensure quality field time with our top-notch staff. Each day students travel into backcountry ski terrain in small groups with instructors.

These experiential sessions examine topics discussed in the classroom. All students will be able to practice companion rescue, route finding and terrain analysis, dig snowpits, and conduct stability tests. Unlike many avalanche courses, Silverton Avalanche School students gain practical training in the wild backcountry rather than a ski area.

Students receive valuable input, instant feedback, and vital insight from our instructors who are responsible for mitigating avalanche hazard in Class A avalanche terrain filled with one of the most dangerous snowpacks on earth, where avalanche hazard assessment and reduction is an everyday job. Instructors will help students acquire and enhance the critical skills, perceptual cues, and knowledge needed to make better decisions with greater accuracy and success.

Dates & Times

Courses are 3 days, 8am-5pm daily

Learning Outcomes

  • Improved Avalanche Judgement and Decision-making Skills
  • Expanded Situational Awareness and Perceptual Capacities
  • Human influence in group dynamics
  • Applying the Current Avalanche Bulletin to Tour Planning
  • Develop a trip plan based on snowpack and weather
  • Make and record field observations
  • Effective companion rescue

Course Curriculum:

  • Tour Preparation
  • Analyzing avalanche forecasts
  • Identifying avalanche terrain
  • Recognizing hazardous conditions
  • Snowpack Development
  • Snowpack Instabilities
  • Route Finding and Travel Techniques
  • Using Observations and Tests
  • Human Factors
  • Educated Decision-Making
  • Mountain Weather
  • Companion Rescue
  • Safe Travel Protocols
  • Snow Pit Profiles
  • Group Management
  • Snow layer analysis
  • Risk evaluation
  • Beacon and Probe Use

Sample Itinerary (subject to variation)

Day 1:

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

Day 2:

  • Making Weather and Avalanche Observations
  • Practicing companion rescue
  • Field Observational Techniques
  • Snowpit Documentation and Snowpack Testing
  • Transceiver, Probing and Shoveling lessons
  • Decision Making: Choosing Terrain and Traveling Wisely

Day 3:

  • Pre-trip Hazard Forecast
  • Effective Tour Planning
  • Route Finding & Terrain Analysis
  • Group Management
  • Implementing the Decision Making Framework
  • Course Wrap Up, Evaluation, Q & A, Instructor Feedback

Course Logistics

  • Cost: $350 per person
  • Cost Includes: Level 1 Avalanche Course Manual, AIARE Waterproof Field Book, and AIARE Level 1 certificate upon successful completion of the course.
  • Not Included: Lodging, Food, and Transportation. See our Getting Here page for area information.
  • Venue: Kendall Mtn Recreation Center  |  Silverton, CO (Unless stated otherwise)
  • Cancellation Policy:   A $35.00 fee is charged for course date transfers. 60% of the course cost can be refunded up to 30 days prior to the course start.  No refunds are provided for cancellations made less than 30 days prior to the start of the course for which you are registered. Unfortunately we cannot give refunds, rainchecks or cancellations if passes into Silverton are closed.

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