AIARE Recreational Level 2 Avalanche Course

Who Should Take this Course

The three-day/24-hour AIARE Recreational Level 2 is for those who have taken an AIARE Recreational Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue Course and have had at least a year of backcountry travel experience. The course provides backcountry travelers an opportunity to advance their decision making skills in more complicated situations such as being a leader within a small travel group, traveling in more complicated terrain, and/or developing a travel plan where online resources are scarce. This course focuses upon applying the skills of terrain assessment, group travel and risk mitigation in the field and builds on the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the Level 1. Students will describe and discuss weather, snowpack and avalanche processes, and identify how these processes relate to observations and travel within avalanche terrain.

The goal of the AIARE Level 1 Course is to introduce avalanche phenomena and to give the knowledge to someone to enable them to be an active participant in a group outing. The AIARE Level 2 course is designed for those who wish to expand their skills and to become the leader and facilitator of a group outing. Participants can expect 8-12  hours of classroom and 12-16 hours of field instruction.
Here is the difference between an AIARE Recreational Level 1 and a Level 2 Recreational Course.

       Student learning outcomes

  • Differentiate where specific avalanche hazards exist within the landscape and identify avalanche terrain where consequences may be more severe.
  • Use and interpret weather, snow, and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain prior to entering and while in the field.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills within a small team that include facilitating small group discussion, promoting appropriate terrain selection, and utilizing simple risk management strategies.
  • Implement a basic forecasting framework that can be used in conjunction with, 0r in the absence of, local supporting avalanche information.


  • We will meet the first day at 8:00 am at the White Mountain Research Station just out of Bishop. The address is 3000 East Line Street.
    To get here turn east at the intersection of Line Street and Highway 395 (Main Street) onto East Line Street. This is the southern most traffic light on 395 in Bishop. Follow East Line Street 3.8 miles past the airport, cross the Owens River and look for a cluster of building on the right (south side of the road). Drive in through the gate and park. Look for signs to the classroom.. When we travel we will facilitate car pools to the snow but you should make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter travel.


  • We plan to get the classroom work over in one full day. After that we want to head to our hut at North Lake and do the field work there, in the center of avalanche terrain. So in addition to the materials for classroom work you will need overnight equipment for the hut.
  • The AAA and AIARE suggests a maximum ratio of 1 instructor: 6 participants for the field sessions.
  • If you want more information on what to look for in avalanche courses we suggest looking at the AIARE website
  • You also need to review the Level I course material. This is available as a link in Resources.
  • Compass with inclinometer or better yet a dedicated slope inclinometer. (Lifelink makes one of these)
  • Altimeter (Optional)
  • You can  these online at:
    Wasatch Touring
    Forestry Suppliers
    Backcountry Access
    Mountain Equipment Co-Op

Or locally at Mammoth Mountaineering Supply or Eastside Sports.

Participants can expect 8-12 hours of classroom and 12-16 hours of field instruction in the following subjects:
The first day is a full classroom session.
• Energy balance, the mountain snowpack and metamorphism
• Faceting; near surface and near crust faceting
• Formation of surface hoar and persistent weak layers
• Stability analysis checklist: reviewing critical factors
• Trip Planning and hazard forecasting for avalanche terrain
• Terrain selection, route finding and applied map skills
• Travel protocols and group management
• Decision making and it’s traps
• Human factors and traps
• Information gathering

The next two days we will journey up a snow covered road to our hut at North Lake. We spend the night there spending as much time as we can with on-the-snow field work.
Our hut is a Weatherport structure 14×20 feet in size. Constructed of plasticized fabric stretched over a steel frame and with a wood floor it provides sturdy shelter from the elements. We have just have added a new floor and deck to make it even better. Inside is a wood fired stove to keep things warm and to warm up boots in the morning, lanterns to provide light during those long winter nights and a gas stove to keep the hot chocolate coming in the evenings or coffee to start the morning. The hut will comfortably seat up to 10 people, but for sleeping, especially with larger groups it may be more comfortable to sleep outside in a tent.
You will need overnight equipment as in the equipment list.

Program Prerequisites:

Participants must have taken an AIARE Recreational Level 1, a current Avalanche Rescue Course and have had at least a year of backcountry travel experience.
Students must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain on either alpine touring skis or split boards.
Snowshoes are discouraged on this course. However if we have a sufficient number of snowshoers we can run a snowshoe Recreational Level 2.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes instruction, loan of avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, and a syllabus.
Overnight stay at our North Lake Hut.
One breakfast, two lunches and one dinner while at the hut – you bring snacks and hot drinks.
Local accommodation before the program, on the night of the first day or the night of the last day is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary and equipment list
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.