AIARE Recreational Level 1 Avalanche Course

The goal of this course is to help you learn how to make your own decisions about appropriate backcountry snow travel.

TheAIARE Recreational Level 1 course provides a complete introduction to the avalanche phenomenon, avalanche terrain, decision making, and rescue. This is an ideal first course for those new to travel in avalanche terrain and a great review or upgrade for anyone who has some experience or prior training but feels they need a skills “tune-up.” The AIARE Recreational Level 1 is designed as a stand-alone course for backcountry travelers, serves as an introduction to avalanches and is a lead in to the AIARE Recreational Level 2 Course for those wishing to progress further. During the course we cover the following topics:

  • Types of avalanches
  • Characteristics of avalanches
  • An introduction to how avalanches form and release
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Travel techniques
  • Backcountry decision making
  • Human factors
  • Avalanche rescue
  • An introduction to snow pit work

This course fulfills the requirements of the AAA (American Avalanche Association ) for a Level I course and the length of a Level I course has been extended to three days from the two days of previous years. Our course uses the curriculum and standards developed by AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education).


We will meet the first day at 8:00 am at the world headquarters of Sierra Mountain Center, 218 South Main Street, in Bishop. We are on the east side of Highway 395 in the second block south of the south most traffic light (intersection of Line Street and Main Street/Highway 395). Or if you prefer, just across the the Mountain Rambler Brewery. For the exact location of the on snow portions of the course we wait and see where the most interesting snow conditions are to be found. We have a variety of options in the Bishop to Mammoth area and you should expect to drive 30-60 minutes each day. We will facilitate car pools to the snow each day but you should make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter travel.


AAA and AIARE suggest a maximum ratio of 1 instructor: 6 participants for the field sessions.
Lodging is not included.
If you want more information on what to look for in avalanche courses we suggest looking at the AIARE website.
AIARE has put together a set of pre-course study material that provide you with a good background prior to the course. Click here to get it.


Day 1

We start in the classroom with slides and lectures explaining the contributing factors in avalanche formation, followed by a closer look at the formation and characteristics of the mountain snowpack, types of avalanches, terrain analysis, and companion rescue. In the afternoon we’ll carpool up to the snow to work on route-finding skills on snow, finishing the day with an introduction to avalanche rescue beacons.

Day 2

This day is also a mix of classroom and field. The morning is spent pulling it all together in a decision making framework and examining the human factors which can make us ignore all of our careful data collecting. In the afternoon we car-pool to our day’s location we’ll take a closer look at actual avalanche paths, discussing potential routes of travel. The focus of the afternoon is digging deeper into the snowpack, discussing snowpit site selection, snowpack metamorphism, identification of potential weak layers, and and applying various tests to assess stability.

Day 3

We take a tour bringing it all together with plenty of practice using our newfound tools of bonding tests, route-finding, and beacon searches. We aim to conclude the day by 3:00pm.

Program Prerequisites:

The course is not particularly physical but you will need to be able to be out all day in a range of weather conditions and you’ll need to be able to use alpine touring skis, split board or snowshoes. We will be traveling short distances on moderate slopes. No prior snow stability evaluation training is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes instruction, loan of avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, and a syllabus. Local accommodation is not included.

Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:

Details, itinerary, and equipment list