Avalanche Level 1 Hybrid Course curriculum brought to you by:
We teach a complete program of curriculum established and developed by the American Avalanche Institute (AAI).
You can expect to develop a solid foundation of how to prepare for and carry out a backcountry trip, understanding basic decision making while in the field, and avalanche rescue techniques required to locate and dig up a buried person.
This course provides essential training for anyone traveling in or near avalanche terrain: snowboarders, ski tourers, snowmobilers, mountaineers, snowshoers, everyone! For aspiring professionals, this course fulfills a prerequisite for the AAI Pro 1 course down the line.
By completing this course with Colorado Mountain School, you will receive a certification from AAI and join a network of tens of thousands of Level 1 avalanche training graduates.
Colorado Mountain School Adopts American Avalanche Institute Curriculum in Place of AIARE Course Curriculum
For 50 years, the American Avalanche Institute has provided one the most successful professional and recreational avalanche training programs. At the recreational and professional levels, their courses and curricula are fully approved by the American Avalanche Association (A3). AAI’s guides, avalanche professionals, and educators create the best recreational and professional avalanche courses in the world. Read more information about the switch from AIARE to AAI curriculum.
This course can be taken on snowshoes, skis, splitboard, or snowboard. Participants on alpine touring rigs must have experience on their setup prior to taking this course. Snowshoes are available for rent upon request. Students on skis or boards must be comfortable in steep blue to black terrain at the areas.
We believe that avalanche training is best taught by combining theoretical concepts and experiential learning. Some topics are best learned in a safe classroom setting and others in the mountains, moving through terrain and digging into the snow. Here at CMS you’ll have both.
The first portion of your hybrid course includes the AAI Avalanche Level 1 online prep course. This online course should be completed prior to your first zoom session and completion is required for a course completion certificate. The remainder of your course will take place via zoom meetings and the mountains. You should be prepared, mentally and physically, to stay immersed in the backcountry environment for six to eight hours. You will be assigned to a small touring group consisting of one AAI Instructor and a maximum of six students to simultaneously allow intimate instruction and the ability to spread out. Here’s a preview itinerary of what your course could look like:
Self-Paced AAI e-Learning:
The AAI Avalanche Level 1 online course is a comprehensive 10 hour dive into the foundational concepts needed to safely and successfully navigate snow covered mountains. The online portion is self-paced with quizzes at the end of each section to assist comprehension and learning.
Virtual meeting – Evening before first field day, approximately 2 hours
- Welcome, review itinerary
- Review forecast / Map building
- Avalanche Forecast discussion
- Plan/logistics for the field days
Field Day 1 – 8:00am – 4:30pm
- Course meets at predetermined location
- Morning avalanche, weather and safety briefing
- Introduction to trailhead rescue gear checks
- Introduction to AAI Backcountry Checklist
- Companion rescue practice – demonstrations, practice and observation/coaching
- Transition to instructor led tour and snowpack observations – introduction to snow pack tests
- Terrain tour (ATES) – how to identify avalanche terrain and safely navigate it
- Debrief observations in the field and return to trailhead
- Assign parameters for day 2 tour plan
Field Day 2 – 8:00am – 4:30pm
- Meet at trailhead
- AM Meeting – Backcountry Checklist (avalanches, snowpack, weather)
- Trailhead transceiver function check
- Student/Instructor-led tour: Terrain Identification, recording observations in field books, snowpack tests / observations, weather observations, review companion rescue
- Return to trailhead – Checklist debrief in small groups followed by large group discussion
- Course wrap up & next steps
Optional Learning Resources — All Season Long
- Virtual mentorship sessions
- Students-only webinars
- Tech tip video library
- Community Facebook forum: find partners, discuss coursework & more
1 Video call: Held the night prior to your field days. Links are sent out by the Course Instructors
2 Field locations TBD
Cameron Pass: There are a variety of cabins, vacation rentals and camping options available on / near Cameron Pass. Learn more about Cameron Pass and options for lodging near State Forest State Park.
I-70 Courses, Frisco: There are a variety of accommodations off the I-70 corridor. The towns of Silverthorne, Dillon, and Leadville are all situated near the field venues we use and work well for lodging.
All of our courses can be run as custom outings. If your group is interested in a custom avalanche training course, please call us at 720-387-8944.
The nature of this pandemic requires us to be flexible and adaptable in how we deliver a quality training experience. Rest assured, from the moment you enroll all the way up to your course field days and beyond, our instructors will be a part of your learning progression and will provide you with the tools and resources you need to best prepare for your winter backcountry adventures. If you’d like to learn more about what we are doing to manage COVID-19 risk for our students and guides, please view our COVID-19 FAQ page.
Why Take an AAI Course from CMS?
- The AAI curriculum was developed, refined and honed by working Professionals in some of the most avalanche prone mountain ranges of North America.
- Our Instructors are educators, not just minimally qualified instructors
- We spend the majority of the course in the mountains, not inside
- We provide valuable pre-course material to help you prepare
- We provide bonus education opportunities to help you keep learning
- Our Instructors are career guides, with decades of personal backcountry experience
- Our Instructors are AMGA Ski Guide-trained or certified
- We have a full-time office staff of GUIDES to answer all of your questions
- Dozens of course dates to meet our guests scheduling needs
- Get avalanche training in the ski venue you ski in locally
- Fully sponsored by industry leaders Dynafit, SCARPA, Backcountry Access
- Full avalanche rescue kit rentals at no charge – try before you buy
All Upcoming Dates and Locations:
- No dates found
Noah Fields (verified owner) –
Took an AIARE 1 course from CMS and absolutely loved it. It was a great experience and I learned a ton about avalanche safety and backcountry travel. I highly recommend CMS!
Megan Reuss (verified owner) –
Steve provided outstanding instruction for our small group of 6. We were able to apply what we learned in the online portion of the course in the backcountry in a safe way. Steven was able to answer any and all questions we brought up in a clear and concise way.
chandlek70 (verified owner) –
Course was well managed by Ben and he prompted the students to become immersed in the course by actively thinking about the course objectives. Well done!
Megan Reuss (verified owner) –
My wife and I have wanted to get into backcountry skiing for years and finally made the jump to buying our setup. We wanted to ensure we were knowledgable enough about avalanche danger and terrain ahead of touring on our own, and CMS’s AIARE 1 course was the best we could ask for in terms of giving us a foundation to build our backcountry experience on. The online curriculum was easy to follow and helped set us up for a great weekend in the field up at Estes. Our instructor, Steve, was an absolutely amazing teacher and guide. He made the weekend a blast while challenging our group and was able to answer all of our questions, whether gear or avalanche condition-related, with his vast experience in the backcountry. I would highly recommend this course for anyone who wants to get a proper backcountry education under their belt and have fun doing it ahead of hitting the trails.
kayla.dome (verified owner) –
Everett did an awesome job combining education with what we are all passionate about; skiing. He helped us understand the importance of everything he taught us and why it mattered. His passion and understanding of the snow really helped us all feel safe. I would recommend this course to anyone who loves skiing both in bounds and out of bounds as a way to understand the mountain.
Casey Romeo (verified owner) –
I learned an incredible amount during my AIARE 1 course. Before taking the course, I did not know how to properly dissect the risks of going into the backcountry, and now I feel comfortable with the next steps for going into the backcountry safely.
CJ Amman (verified owner) –
I really enjoyed the AIARE structure with the online classwork upfront and then apply that knowledge to the backcountry for 2 days. I thought the online coursework was not only educational it was professional as well. The backcountry experience was exceptional. I really enjoyed my instructor and how we had the opportunity experience the online learning.
Matthew Ramey (verified owner) –
Great course, the online learning portion was ok, and could have been better, but we had a supportive and caring guide who really made the course, both in the online sessions and in the field.
Hanna Doyle (verified owner) –
AIARE 1 was a great experience. I learned so much and had a great time being in the outdoors with friends.
Leah Livingston (verified owner) –
Ben is awesome and provided WAYYY more information that I could have imagined. We had two amazing ski tours in Hidden Valley and Bear Lake. Would highly recommend to anyone that wants to learn more about skiing outside the resorts!
William Wiese (verified owner) –
Ian was an incredible instructor. He made things easy to understand and showed us how to apply our knowledge in the field.
Jerry Byrd (verified owner) –
Thank you Katie for sharing your knowledge and passion with us! It was an enjoyable couple of days at Cameron Pass!
little_castaldo (verified owner) –
Took AIARE I in February 2021 and had a fantastic time! Our instructor, Sarah, was fabulous, and the educational value exceeded my expectations.