AIARE Avalanche Level 1 – A Student’s Perspective

Table of Contents

My Perspective
Important Avalanche Related Links
GPS Data and Mapping

My Perspective

One of the most important things that a backcountry skier can do is to start, and continue formal Avalanche education and training.  I have put this off too long, but this past weekend I finally had the opportunity to complete my Level 1 “Avy” training.

This article highlights some of my learning’s and experiences from the Avy 1 course taught by Sawtooth Mountain Guides.  I am sharing this experience for two reasons:

  • If you are recreating in the backcountry in the winter and have not taken any formal avalanche training, perhaps I may help motivate you to take that step.
  • If you know and care for someone who spends time in the backcountry in the winter, and are concerned for their safety, perhaps I can provide you with some information to point that person in the right direction.

What do you want to get out of this course?  A fairly common question and one that was asked of the participants.  I had two main things that I wanted to accomplish:

  • As I start to carefully expand the group of backcountry skiers that I go with, I wanted to feel like a more contributing member of the team.  I want to be an asset in the planning and decision making process.  As a team member, I need to know how to evaluate and discuss terrain, snowpack and weather.  And last but not least, if something does go wrong, I want to be trained and prepared to assist with any rescue efforts required.
  • I grew up climbing for turns and lately I’ve been returning to those roots.  As I do this, I realize that I need to have the tools and the knowledge in my arsenal to reduce risk and increase the likelihood that I will always return safely.

Life is an adventure and any adventure is going to have a certain level of risk associated with it.  One of the keys is learning how to enjoy the adventures without taking too many risks.  This is where this course, taught by Sawtooth Mountain Guides really delivered for me.  It validated a lot of the learning’s that I had picked up over the years, showed me the flaws in others and  most importantly gave me that solid foundation for managing risk in the backcountry.  I’m not more confident in my ability to predict avalanches, (far from it), BUT I now have a framework for making wise decisions about the terrain I will ski and how I communicate those critical elements with my teammates in the backcountry.

I had heard from some people that after taking their avalanche training, it scared them so bad that they didn’t even want to go out in the backcountry.  That was certainly not my “take-away”.  I have a better understanding of the forecast that the professionals are producing.  I know how to use this information and along with my travel partners to assess the terrain options, snowpack and weather to come up with a plan that will minimize risk and maximize the “fun” part of the adventure for the day.  Taking this course has not given me cause to avoid the backcountry; it has provided me with an additional set of “tools” to enjoy the backcountry – and that is exactly what I intend to do!!!

The photos and video highlight some of the experiences outside of the classroom for days 2 and 3 of the course.  (Day 1 was focused in Avalanche rescue efforts and I was too busy finding/saving victims to shot photos or videos).

Photo Gallery

Video – Avy Level 1 Ski Tour

The ski tour was the culmination of what was learned in the course. This video illustrates some or the decision making and observations.

Important/Useful Links


Payette Avalanche Center


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce

Mountian Weather

Exum Mountain Guides

Image 4

 GPS Data and map of the Avalanche Level 1 Activities:


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Snow report by Snow Report & Snow Service Denver

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