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Avalanche Level 1

  • Price: $719.00$749.00
  • Duration: 3 Days
(55 customer reviews)

On this Avalanche Level 1 course you’ll learn how to make informed decisions in avalanche terrain, with North America’s largest and most experienced avalanche course provider! This course offers 3 action-packed days of professional avalanche training utilizing top notch classroom instruction and hands on field practice. This course was developed to give students the confidence to make informed decisions when traveling through the backcountry.

Colorado Mountain School teaches the American Avalanche Institute (AAI) recreational curriculum (in place of the AIARE curriculum).  The AAI curriculum is approved by the American Avalanche Association (A3) and sets a new standard for avalanche training in the United States.

All field days are consecutive, course dates below indicate the first day in the field.

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Don’t see a date and location that works for you? We offer custom guiding 365 days a year. 

Looking for an avalanche training course in Utah, Wyoming or Montana? Sign up with our friends at American Avalanche Institute.


Avalanche Level 1 Course
curriculum brought to you by:American Avalanche Institute Logo

We teach a complete program of curriculum established and developed by the American Avalanche Institute.

Students surrounding an instructor teaching Avy 1 in a snow pit learning about avalanche safety on an AIARE 1 course.You can expect to develop a solid foundation in 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.  

Learn more about student learning outcomes in the “Curriculum” tab above.

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 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.

Sample Itinerary:

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 course includes the AAI Avalanche Fundamentals online prep course.  The remainder of  your course will take place both in the classroom and the mountains. You should be prepared, mentally and physically, to stay immersed in the backcountry environment for up to six 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 Fundamentals Prep course is an optional self-paced online learning module that will give you a head start on both classroom and field topics. 

 Classroom + Field Day 1 –  8:00am – 4:30pm

  • Meet at the CMS Lodge (or designated classroom for other locations), Complete Waivers
  • Course Welcome, Student and Instructor Introductions, Logistics brief
  • Introduction to Avalanches – The Avalanche Triangle
  • Avalanche types and nomenclature
  • Terrain Recognition, Route Finding and ATES
  • The Mountain Snowpack
  • Mountain Weather and it’s influence on avalanche formation
  • Understanding the avalanche bulletin
  • How to use the Backcountry Checklist
  • Break for Lunch – Transition to the backcountry
  • Companion Rescue Introduction
  • Practice drills, reinforce basic skills
  • Day 1 debrief at the trailhead

Classroom + Field Day 2 – 8:00am – 4:30pm

  • Meet at CMS Lodge(or designated classroom for other locations), Review Day 1 material – Q & A
  • Tour Planning Essentials ( Caltopo, Avenza, Gaia, & Google Earth )
  • Create a tour plan in field groups with Instructor coaching
  • Human factors and how they influence decision making
  • Transition to the backcountry
  • Instructor led tour;  Terrain (ATES), slope angles and weather and snowpack observations
  • Checklist debrief, share and communicate pertinent observations, Submit to CAIC

Classroom + Field Day 3 – 8:00am – 4:30pm

  • Meet at trailhead Split up into touring groups, Review plan for the day
  • Student led morning briefing, Trailhead transceiver function check
  • Student/Instructor-led tour: Terrain Identification, recording observations in field books, snowpack tests /observations, weather observations, go/no go decision making processes
  • Debrief observations
  • Return to Classroom, decision making scenarios, course wrap up & next steps

Meeting location:

CMS Lodge in Estes Park, located on 341 Moraine Ave.


Estes Park: Estes Park Adventure Hostel

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.


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.

Why Our Avalanche Courses Are Worth It:

  • 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:

  • November 29, 2024 - December 1, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 2, 2024 - December 4, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 6, 2024 - December 8, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 9, 2024 - December 11, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 13, 2024 - December 15, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 16, 2024 - December 18, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 20, 2024 - December 22, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 27, 2024 - December 29, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 30, 2024 - January 1, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 3, 2025 - January 5, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 6, 2025 - January 8, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 10, 2025 - January 12, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 13, 2025 - January 15, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 18, 2025 - January 20, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 20, 2025 - January 22, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 24, 2025 - January 26, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 27, 2025 - January 29, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 31, 2025 - February 2, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 3, 2025 - February 5, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 7, 2025 - February 9, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 10, 2025 - February 12, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 15, 2025 - February 17, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 17, 2025 - February 19, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 21, 2025 - February 23, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 24, 2025 - February 26, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 28, 2025 - March 2, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 3, 2025 - March 5, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 7, 2025 - March 9, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 14, 2025 - March 16, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 17, 2025 - March 19, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 21, 2025 - March 23, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 28, 2025 - March 30, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 31, 2025 - April 2, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • April 4, 2025 - April 6, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • April 11, 2025 - April 13, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • April 18, 2025 - April 20, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • November 29, 2024 - December 1, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 6, 2024 - December 8, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 13, 2024 - December 15, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • December 20, 2024 - December 22, 2024 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 10, 2025 - January 12, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 18, 2025 - January 20, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • January 24, 2025 - January 26, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 15, 2025 - February 17, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • February 21, 2025 - February 23, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado
  • March 7, 2025 - March 9, 2025 - Avalanche Level 1 - Estes Park, Colorado

At the end of the Avalanche Level 1 course the student should be able to:

  • Interpret the avalanche forecast bulletin and choose appropriate avalanche terrain for the day
  • Use of the Backcountry Avalanche Checklist in the field to provide a system for prioritizing information, working as a team, and minimizing possible human factor traps
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain.
  • Demonstrate effective companion rescue
  • Understand avalanche terminology
  • Recognize and identify avalanche terrain
  • Understand safe travel best practices in avalanche terrain
  • Be Able to identify major layers mountain snowpack
  • Understand how weather changes the snowpack
  • Human factors and how they can influence decision-making
  • How to make and communicate field observations of terrain, snowpack, and weather
  • Basic use and interpretation of stability tests


This course can be taken on AT skis, splitboard, or snowshoes. Participants must have experience on their setup prior to taking this course and be comfortable in steep blue to black terrain at the areas. Snowshoes are available upon request.


The Avalanche Level 1 course is for anyone, regardless of method of travel, who wants to recreate in or near avalanche terrain. Participants may have attended some awareness classes or workshops or completed the Avalanche Rescue course, but none are a prerequisite for this course.

Avalanche Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue are prerequisites for both Avalanche Level 2 and Professional Avalanche Training 1.

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 Policy.


8:00am to 4:30pm


3 Days

Maximum Ratio:


Minimum Age:

Please call to register participants under 18
Experience Level


Activity Level



Avalanche Training



Price Includes:

Price Excludes:

  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Lodging
  • Clothing, backpack and non-technical personal items
  • Skiing / Splitboarding Equipment (Recommend Neptune Mountaineering)
  • Park Entrance Fees (where applicable)
  • Rescue Insurance / Fees
  • Trip Insurance
  • Gratuity
  • Expenses due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of Colorado Mountain School

Item Description Quantity Example Purchase At Rent At Equipment Type
Avalanche Beacon

Modern, digital, three-antennae beacon with fresh batteries.


BCA Tracker 3 or 4

Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School or Neptune Mountaineering

Avalanche Probe

Collapsable metal or carbon rod used to probe avalanche debris while attempting to strike a buried target.


BCA Stealth 300

Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School or Neptune Mountaineering

Avalanche Rescue Shovel

Ski specific shovel used to dig pits and avalanche rescue. A metal blade is mandatory.


BCA B1 Ext

Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School or Neptune Mountaineering

Backpack: 20-40 liter

Packs smaller than this tend not to be able to carry the necessary amount of equipment and clothing.



Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School

Baselayer Bottoms

Synthetic or Merino Wool, Lightweight or mid-weight are recommended.


Men: Rab Syncrino Leggings
Women: Rab Syncrino Leggings


Beanie or Fleece Hat

Should cover the ears and fit under a helmet. Hats with fluff balls on top do not fit under helmets.


Filament Beanie


Climbing Skins

Nylon or mohair. Trimmed and adjusted to fit your skis or splitboard ahead of time.


Fischer Climbing Skins

Neptune Mountaineering

Neptune Mountaineering


Used for navigation and orientation. A compass with adjustable declination is preferrable.


Silva Ranger CLQ

Neptune Mountaineering

Face Mask – PPE

Optional; Look for a mask with a bendable border at the top so you can mold the mask to fit the bridge of your nose and prevent your glasses from fogging.

1 Clothing
First Aid Kit

Your guide will have an emergency First Aid Kit. You should bring a small kit including blister prevention and care products such as a role of athletic tape and Moleskin. Your kit should also contain a few Band-aids, some Tylenol and Ibuprofen.


Neptune Mountaineering

Floatation (Skis, Snowboard, or Snowshoes)

Students are welcome to participate on snowshoes, skis, or Splitboard. Skis should have touring bindings; lightweight tech bindings are ideal. Splitboards are ideal for snowboarders. Snowboarders using resort snowboards will need to have snowshoes. All students will need poles.


Skis: Fischer Transalp 98 CTI
Bindings: Dynafit Radical

Splitboard: Weston Backcountry
Splitboard Bindings: Spark/Karakoram x Weston


Neptune Mountaineering


Skis and Splitboards: Neptune Mountaineering
Snowshoes: Colorado Mountain School


Proper lunches that are prepared ahead of time are recommended (sandwich, burrito, leftover pizza, etc), along with an assortment of snack bars, gels, or trail mixes. Feeze-dried meals are acceptable on overnight trips, but not day trips.


Made in Nature, Thrive Tribe

Neptune Mountaineering


Protect your eyes and face from wind and sun burn.


Zeal Beacon Goggles

Zeal Optics

Neptune Mountaineering

Hardshell Pants

These should be non-insulated pants with ankle cuffs wide enough to fit over your ski or ride boots.


Men: Rab Khroma Kinetic Pant
Women: Rab Women’s Khroma Kinetic Pants

Rab Stores


Load with fresh batteries. Critical for hiking before sunrise and great to have in the pack in case you are caught out after dark.


Neptune Mountaineering

Heavyweight Waterproof Glove

This glove comes out when the winter going gets cold and wet or at higher altitudes.


Men: Pivot GTX Glove
Women: Pivot GTX Glove

Rab Store

Hot Drinks

Coffee, tea, hot cocoa are great for warming up when it’s cold outside.


Cusa Tea; Alpine Start Coffee

Neptune Mountaineering


Useful for navigation courses, including hiking and ski tour planning.

1 Optional
Lightweight Baselayer Top

Synthetic or Merino Wool; Worn against the skin and is considered a “wicking” layer that facilitates the movement of moisture away from the skin and through the layers. Hooded base layers add extra versatility.


Men: Rab Syncrino Base LS Tee
Women: Rab Syncrino Base LS Tee


Lightweight Gloves

Synthetic; Thin gloves used when hiking the early morning approach. Belay gloves can suffice if full-fingered.


Rab Vapour-Rise Glove

Rab Store

Lip ScreenSPF 15 or higher.

Non-SPF rated lip balms can actually increase your chances of getting burned.


Rocky Mountain Sunscreen Lip Balm

Neptune Mountaineering

Mechanical Pencil

Great for taking notes in the field.

1 Optional
Midweight Baselayer Top

Synthetic or Merino Wool; Adds extra warmth and protection from the cold and wind without creating a moisture barrier as a jacket would. Having at least one base layer that is hooded adds versatility, protecting the neck and ears from cold winds.


Men: Rab Ascendor Light Hoodie
Women: Rab Ascendor Light Hoodie


Midweight Softshell Glove

This is the workhorse glove and is most often worn on warmer days when mountaineering. Softshell gloves are water-resistant and durable. They often have leather palms and fingers.


Rab Khroma Tour Glove


Neck Gaiter

“Buffs” are quite versatile in their uses. They can be used as light beanies, neck warmers, and can offer face protection from the cold wind or sun.


CMS Neck Gaiter

Neptune Mountaineering

Personal Care Items

Medications, glasses or contacts, feminine products, etc.

1 Optional
Personal Toilet Kit

At minimum, bring a small Ziploc with toilet paper. Consider bringing a travel sized package of hand-wipes. Idealy, purchase, or for free from the RMNP Backcountry office, bring a “Rest Stop.” The Rest Stop, known as “Blue Bags” in the Pacific Northwest, or the “Wag Bag” in other areas, are poop-in-a-bag systems that include toilet paper and a sanitizing hand wipe.


Neptune Mountaineering

Ski Helmet

This item is recommended but not required. We will be skiing in the trees, and in snow conditions where rocks, stumps, and downded logs are present.


Camp Speed Comp

Neptune Mountaineering

Ski or Snowboard Boots

Footwear should be appropriate to mode of travel i.e. ski, snowboard, or insulated winter boots for snowshoes. For snowshoers, a boot such as the Scarpa Mont Blanc is the minimum level of boot required. Ski Boots should have a walk mode.


Scarpa Maestrale RS

Neptune Mountaineering

Neptune Mountaineering

Ski or Trekking Poles

Two poles, with powder baskets, are required for all skiers, splitboarders, and snowshoers. It is ideal if poles are ski-specific and collapse small enough to fit onto a pack when climbing.


BCA Scepter

Neptune Mountaineering

Colorado Mountain School; Neptune Mountaineering

Ski Straps

18″ Rubber or velcro straps to connect skis when attaching them to a pack. Also useful for a variety of in-the-field equipment repairs.


BCA Ski Strap

Neptune Mountaineering

Smart Phone App

There are a plethora of apps that assist in navigation. These apps use your phone’s GPS functions and can work in the mountains offline.


Avanet; Gaia Maps; Topo Maps


Great for taking photos and videos. Smartphone batteries tend to shut down in freezing temps – keep your phone in a warm inner layer. A tether is ideal in the mountains to protet against dropping your phone.

1 Optional
Softshell and Fleece Jacket

Water-resistant, windproof, yet it “breaths,” which means it allows moisture to move through. Hoods are ideal. There are multiple thicknesses of Softshell jackets. A lightweight or medium-weight jacket is preferred. Fleece jackets are acceptable.


Men: Rab VR Summit Jacket
Women: Rab VR Summit Jacket


Sports Bra

Provides support and allows for full range of motion


North Face Beyond the Wall

Neptune Mountaineering

Sun Hat

A billed hat to keep the bright mountain sun at bay.


Rab Trucker Logo Cap



“Wrap-Around” style sunglasses with 100% UV Protection.



Zeal Optics 

Neptune Mountaineering

SunscreenSPF 30 or higher.

Travel size.


Rocky Mountain Sunscreen SPF 50

Neptune Mountaineering

Synthetic or Down Puffy Jacket

Fits over all other layers and is worn at breaks and on really cold days. Synthetic puffies are more durable, are easily laundered, and dry out quickly if wet. Down puffies are lighter weight, pack smaller, and provide exceptional warmth, but once wet, they stay wet.


Men: Rab Mythic Alpine Light Jacket
Women: Rab Mythic Alpine Light Jacket


Synthetic or Merino Wool Socks

Wool and synthetic blends are great for long days on the trail. “Ski” and “Snowboard” socks are especially useful when warmth is desired.


Point 6 AT Hike Light Crew

Neptune Mountaineering


Many ice climbers prefer to bring a thermos of hot water or soup instead of one of their water bottles.


Neptune Mountaineering

Toe Warmers and Hand Heaters

Help keep you warm on particularly cold days.


Neptune Mountaineering

Water Bottles

1 liter bottles are the standard. Bladders such as Camelbacks and Platypus are acceptable for above freezing temps, but only in conjunction with another bottle. Bladders are not acceptable during sub freezing temps. Sports drinks are also acceptable.


Nalgene, Hydro Flask

Neptune Mountaineering

Waterproof Shell Jacket

Non-insulated, Gore-Tex, Dermizax, Event, or other waterproofing system is required. Mostly, this jacket sits in the bottom of your pack and comes out when the weather gets nasty with precipitation. This jacket should fit over all other layers.


Men: Rab Khroma Cirque GORE-TEX Jacket
Women: Rab Women’s Khroma Cirque GORE-TEX Jacket




Q: Will COVID-19 impact my course?

A: 2020 made it clear that running programs while managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission is a challenge. It is a challenge that the Colorado Mountain School team tackled creatively and courageously. We may need to shift our classrooms to virtual settings at a moment’s notice. We may need to put on masks unexpectedly. We may need to go outside and distance ourselves. No matter what though, we are committed to running programs, providing education, and serving our mission, while also maintaining the highest standards of risk management. Please visit our FAQ page, COVID-19 Policy, or contact us for more information.

Course Registration

Q: Do I need prior backcountry experience to participate in Avalanche Level 1 course?

A: No! If you are planning on taking the course on snowshoes, you do not need any prior experience. If you are joining us on a ski or splitboard touring setup, we ask that you have prior experience touring so that you can focus on getting the most out of your avalanche training, and not about your gear / movement. Our Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Splitboarding course is a great option to get you up to speed quickly if you’re starting out.

Q: What level skier / rider should I be for the Avalanche Level 1 course?

A: If you are hoping to take your Avalanche Level 1 course on a ski or split board touring setup, you’ll need to be skiing or riding at an intermediate to advanced level. You’ll have an opportunity to discuss your experience with your instructor prior to your field sessions. If you or instructor decide that traveling on snowshoes will better your learning experience, they will be provided at no charge.

Q: Is there a best time to take my avalanche training course?

A: Anytime there is snow coverage in the mountains! Historically, the most popular time is early season (November-January) so you can get your training in and have a long season of backcountry adventures ahead of you. Some people prefer to wait until later in the season to get their ski legs and to have higher snow totals in the backcountry, which can open up more venues during the course. Both options are great and the curriculum and certification is the same. If you have the flexibility, weekdays and courses later in the season may be less expensive due to off-peak demand — they also often have the added benefit of off-peak crowds in the mountains.

Q: My first preference in course dates/locations isn’t available. What are the chances of getting a spot if I get on the waitlist?

A: When a spot opens up on a sold out course, we contact everyone on the waitlist and it is first come, first served. Early season waitlists are often dozens of people, so the chances of getting a spot that opens up can sometimes be slim. We recommend you register for your next best choice and get on the waitlist to keep an eye out for transfer opportunities. There are no fees to transfer into a course that you’re waitlisted for.


Q: Do I need to bring/purchase my own avalanche equipment before the course? 

A: No. We can outfit you with a beacon, shovel, and probe from Backcountry Access to use on your course, free of charge. When you fill out your pre-course survey a few weeks before your course, please let us know if you will need this equipment.

Q: Do you rent backcountry skis, splitboards or snowshoes?

A: We have a limited number of snowshoes available upon request. Due to the large variety of sizes for backcountry equipment, we do not rent skis or splitboards. We recommend a pair of Dynafit skis or Weston Splitboards from Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder.

Q: Do you have recommendations on equipment that I should get for the course?

A: Yes! The AAI website has an equipment list tab that has a ton of gear recommendations from our guides. Keep in mind that this list is exhaustive to cover a variety of conditions. If you still have questions about equipment after reading our recommendations, please contact the guides in our office and we’d be happy to chat gear.

For purchasing, we recommend the wonderful folks at Neptune Mountaineering. Please consider the following brands for specific needs.

Technical Outerwear: Rab
Ski Boots: SCARPA
Skis: Dynafit
Snow Safety: BCA

Course Preparation & Online Learning

Q: Will there be any classroom work?

A: This course does include classroom sessions for the 2023/24 season. You can expect to spend some portion of each day in a classroom.

Q: How do I access online learning?

A: Upon registration, students will receive an email that gives them access to the online learning portal. This pre-course online module is optional, but students are strongly encouraged to have completed the online pre-course work prior to the course start date. Completion of the AAI online pre-course work will help prepare you for getting the most out of your Avalanche Level 1 course.

Q: I registered another person. How do they access online learning?

If you enrolled another person, we will need their contact information to provide membership access. Please contact our Service Team ( to get them registered with an online account and a membership.

Field Logistics

Q: Do you have any recommendations for where to stay during the course?

A: Yes! Please check out the lodging recommendations on our Avalanche Level 1 Page.

Q: Will I be able to group up with my Friends or Family during the course?

A: Yes! When filling out our pre-course survey (sent a few weeks before your course), please provide the names of the participants you are signing up / or want to tour with.

Q: Is transportation provided? 

A: No. Each participant is required to provide their own transportation each day. This includes driving to and from the trailhead or any meeting location for the course. 

Q: Will I be able to carpool with my pod to our field days?

A: Due to current COVID-19 conditions, we do not encourage you to carpool with members outside of your household. Instructors are not allowed to carpool with students during this time. 

Q: Will I need to pay a fee to enter any parks?

A: Yes, some venues, such as State and National Parks, require all users pay an entrance fee. These include, but are not limited to, RMNP ($25) and State Forest State Park (Cameron Pass, $9). Clients are responsible for their own entrance fees. You can also purchase a National Parks pass for $80 that will get you into any National Park for the whole year, but may not be eligible for State Parks (depends on the park).

Q: How long are the field sessions? 

A: Field sessions can be anywhere from 3-6 hours in length depending on weather.

Self Care

Q : Is lunch provided? Or do we have to bring our own food?  

A: Lunch is not provided. You are responsible for food and water during your course, and should arrive packed and ready to start your day. An average student may consume a total of 1200-1500 calories per day. This can be in the form or your favorite bars, nut mix, jerky, sandwiches, burritos, etc. Make sure you are hydrated for a full day moving in the mountains. We recommend 2L of water (at minimum). A lightweight thermos with a hot beverage can go a long way in cold temps!

Q : What should I wear? 

A: We recommend bringing multiple clothing layers so you can layer up or layer down, depending on the weather and level of heat you are generating. There will be times that we’ll be generating heat by touring through the mountains or digging for avalanche rescue drills. You may want to delayer before doing aerobic exercise like this to avoid a future cold sweat. Other times, we will stop and sit in the snow (think snow pits). During these times, it is important to layer up and maintain our heat that we just generated. Having flexibility in your layering system allows you to adapt throughout the day. See our Avalanche Level 1 equipment list tab for recommendations.

Q: How is COVID-19 going to be managed during my Avalanche Level 1 course?

A: As professional risk managers, we take the wellbeing of our guides and clients very seriously. Please see our COVID-19 Policy for more info.

Q: Will I be able to go to the bathroom during the course?

A: It’s important to plan appropriately. It’s best to hit the bathroom before leaving for the trailhead as not all trailheads have facilities. If there is a bathroom at the trailhead, take advantage of it; you may not see another one for up to six hours. We recommend you have a Wag Bag (sort of like a dog bag for humans) for emergencies. In preparation for your trip, please review Leave No Trace principles to learn how you can help protect our environment.


Q: Is it appropriate to tip the guides?

A: Guiding is a service-oriented profession and a gratuity for a job well done is recommended and greatly appreciated! If you are unsure about how much is appropriate, a rule-of-thumb is to think about what you’d tip at a restaurant for quality service.

55 reviews for Avalanche Level 1

  1. Brandon Hill

    I want to thank you for all your help leading up to our courses last week. You made sure the whole process was fluid. I also want to let you guys and Mr Russel know that I had an amazing time this past five days. From the hostel stay, to Buster teaching me to work my slidey sticks (Wes’ name for them) uphill to the AIARE class. The four guides that taught that class are a special group of people and I am very grateful for that. Karin, well, just badass…so engaging while speaking, made the whole class a blast to be a part of it, this woman has such a wealth of knowledge and the passion she has for sharing that shows through in the best of ways. Everett, I wasn’t exactly sure about him in the first few hours of class, but quickly found out that I think he likes that!!! E was such a good teacher in the field, I was right at home in the snow pit geeking out snow science with him, this dude knows his stuff and just like Karin, wants to share it with whomever asks. Ed….ol Ed…I did not have the pleasure of getting Ed in the field this go around, but while he was teaching in class, he has a way of making his point stick, very good instructor in class. Last but absolutely not least there’s my man, Wes…Wes is exactly the perfect ingredient to the mix. Stone cold serious about the course content, but super FUN while doing it. You know when this guy is being serious, but he keeps it light and entertaining, another good science geek time in the pit with W. I cannot stress how happy I am with the course we took. This mix of people just absolutely hit home with me, and I am certain the rest of my classmates would agree, the whole class was involved, the way it should be…. This is such serious and heavy content to be learning and taking in, and these four amazing individuals made it so that I could enjoy the whole process as opposed to be being just hit over the head with it all weekend. My friend Matthew and I both left feeling EMPOWERED thank you again for everything and we will absolutely be back for more instruction from this school!!!

  2. Eric Stanfield (verified owner)

    This is a great course, and well worth the investment of your money and time.

    The group sizes are kept to 6 students per instructor, and you rotate through the instructors over the 3 day course. I spent days with Andy Hansen, Japhy Dhungana, and Everett Phillips. Three different personalities and styles, but each serious about the material and enthusiastic about educating the students. They were also accommodating to individual student comfort level and capabilities – don’t think you have to be on skis or that you need to show up with years of backcountry experience under your belt. We had folks on snowshoes and a few split-boarders among all the skiers.

    Indoor classroom facilities in Estes were good, and there is ample room for gearing up when it’s time to go outside. Rocky Mountain National Park is your ‘outside’ classroom – what more needs to be said?

    If you spend time in the backcountry during snow season, do yourself a favor and take the course. I plan to return for the rescue 1 day course, and (eventually) AIARE2.

  3. Greg Keene (verified owner)

    A fantastic course! The instructors fulfilled every aspect that I wanted to learn and a lot more. I now have an understanding of how to plan a tour in the back country safely and how to avoid the risky areas. Well presented and highly entertaining! Highly recommended.

  4. Scott Reardon (verified owner)

    My daughter, friend and I just finished up the Covid version of the 3-day aiare 1 course. It was very well done, with much of the coursework provided online and then two video sessions with our guide/instructor. And then followed by two days in the field where we covered companion rescue, terrain management, snow stability, etc. in a small group that was very hands on. Our instructor was great – very well organized, obviously very experienced and knowledgeable, great at engaging all of us, and did a great job of getting us out into good terrain for real-life views into decision-making (despite early season limited snow). The online materials remain available for future reference. As is our guide for questions that may come up as the season progresses. Very professional and highly recommended.

  5. Kacie Farrar (verified owner)

    This is a fantastic course and must have if you have any desire to do backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Our instructor, Everett, was incredibly knowledgeable and patient. He had all the marks of a great teacher: powerful storytelling, challenging thought exercises, and hands-on learning that challenged each individual and group. I especially appreciated his eagerness for each of us to use the tools at our disposal to lead ourselves through backcountry terrain – prompting real time questions, discussion and understanding.

    We learned about avalanche problems, snow stability, companion rescue, etc. You will also learn to read daily avalanche and weather forecasts to properly plan for backcountry outings – a game changer!

    It is well worth the money – thank you Everett and the Colorado Mountain School!

  6. Dmitry Kunin (verified owner)

    Fantastic course. Japhy was an excellent instructor.

  7. Slater Podgorny (verified owner)

    This course changed the way I look at snow and mountainous landscapes. It gave me the tools I needed to not follow my friends blindly in the backcountry, but to contribute and look for data.

  8. Paul Collier (verified owner)

    Travis, our CMS instructor for AIARE I, was incredibly knowledgeable. He knew his stuff, and his passion for exploring the outdoors safely and with savvy was infectious. This course exceeded my expectations and I’m excited to use my new knowledge in Colorado’s backcountry!

  9. Van Wallace (verified owner)

    Taking the course with someone you plan to backcountry ski with is a great idea. That way you have common ground to discuss and make smart decisions in the backcountry.

  10. Daniel Wade (verified owner)

    I found the instructors at CMS to be highly skilled, experienced, personable, and professional at all times.

  11. Timothy Knox (verified owner)

    A carefully crafted course that made me feel a lot better equipped to understand and appreciate the snow and weather related risks in the backcountry and how to minimize them. Great course!

  12. Ke Tang (verified owner)

    I thought it was great!

  13. Sam Eichenblatt (verified owner)

    There is no replacing getting out into the backcountry with an AIARE instructor!

  14. Will Anderson (verified owner)

    Everett was a great guide. He really dove deep into snow science and understanding weather and avalanche forecasts. His case studies we reviewed were great tools and he went above and beyond for a guide really making the weekend and enjoyable experience filled with knowledge.

  15. Matt Huhman (verified owner)

    Getting to learn from and work with Karin was an absolute joy. The knowledge she has about and the stoke she has for the mountains was both inspiring and exciting and it made standing in the snow for hours with frozen feet legitimately fun. Before I took this course I would’ve said I felt pretty comfortable with my ability to assess the snow pack in the mountains but I quickly learned just how little I actually knew and I feel that my ability to make safe decisions in the mountains has increased dramatically.

  16. Katherine Hofley (verified owner)

    Extremely valuable course for anyone looking to do more in the backcountry. Engaging and fun while covering a lot of crucial material – I feel far more confident and prepared heading into this ski season.

  17. Sara Zakem (verified owner)

    .My expectations for the AIARE 1 course were completely exceeded; being new to the backcountry and still getting used to my backcountry gear, Eryka was so patient and gave us countless tips on how to make the most out of our days together despite being backcountry novices. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors and seemingly limitless fund of knowledge and experience were totally inspiring to our group and got us super stoked on snow! I left the AIARE 1 course feeling confident enough to use the avy forecast, snowpack tests, and weather observations to be able to identify potentially dangerous terrain and use this information to make a solid plan for backcountry days moving forward. This coupled with the basics of avalanche rescue make this course completely worth the money and then some. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow my skills and knowledge!

  18. Timothy Wilcox Jr (verified owner)

    The balance of classroom learning and on snow practice was done very well. I truly enjoyed taking the things we learned in the virtual classroom and directly applying them to problems in the backcountry.

  19. Austin Grutze (verified owner)

    Eryka is the bomb! She was thoughtful, understanding, non-judgemental, and funny. She made serious topics relatable as well as informative. She also knew when to have fun with us and made the exerpeince awesome.

  20. Andrew Brodie (verified owner)

    This course was full of great content and experiential learning objectives. It was made super fun by our group and fearless leader Mike C.

  21. amshanno (verified owner)

    My instructor offered very thorough instruction, was an understanding guide and teacher and had an inclusive way of teaching (not making anyone feel bad for any type of question). This course is great for anyone wanting to become more comfortable in the backcountry and gain a better understanding of avalanches, how to avoid and distinguish good terrain, and basic rescuing techniques to feel more confident going in the backcountry.

  22. Codi Clark (verified owner)

    A great introduction into backcountry decision making, human factors and snow science!

  23. Tate Knight (verified owner)

    The content of a course like this is only as good as the instructors (Dan and Gage), and they absolutely smashed it. They created a friendly and safe atmosphere for learning, and were an amazing resource for any questions. The teaching was absolutely top-tier, and I was especially impressed by their humbleness and grounded insight.

  24. coby (verified owner)

    Andy was a very knowledgeable and friendly guide. He did a great job of managing personalities/abilities and made the course a very enjoyable experience, even for those in our group who had numerous seasons in the backcountry and who were familiar with overall safe decision making. We left with resources, a framework, and new friends. Can’t ask for much more.

  25. Austen Sharpe (verified owner)

    Great experience for those curious about recreating in the backcountry that don’t already have an in. Awesome way to blend your scientific understanding of what’s happening with a tour of potential places to return to and ski!

  26. Victor Fallon (verified owner)

    My instructor Tico was both engaging and informative, highly recommend this course!

  27. roerigr (verified owner)

    Great course! Sarah was able to accommodate multiple skill / interest levels while keeping everyone engaged. I feel much better prepared to safely travel in the backcountry.

  28. Mike Deeter (verified owner)

    Our guide Jaffe was extremely knowledgeable and a. Insulate professional. Highly recommend!!

  29. Christian Wilson (verified owner)

    Friends I’ve talked to have questioned the price of the course and expressed cheaper options. My opinion is the experience was worth more than what we paid and that you’re paying for the quality of the instructors. Our instructor was best-in-class and provided insight to the backcountry that was learned from years of dedicated experience and a passion to educate others. Also, just an overall awesome individual, absolute legend.

  30. Kevin Sheen (verified owner)

    Really well structured with lots of options for continued education. The instructor ‘Kenzie’ made the field days really enjoyable with her energy and positivity. I learned a TON!

  31. Charlie Marsh (verified owner)

    Great opportunity to get outside, learn about safety, yourself and meet new people

  32. bargero.austin (verified owner)

    Great learning experience with very knowledgeable instructors. With our small pod, it was very easy to ask questions and the two full field days gave us plenty of time in the mountains to gain experience. Light snowpack limited amount of turns, but did not have a major impact on education.

  33. Rick Zieser (verified owner)

    There’s so much to think about in the backcountry, but CMS helped lay out all the different elements of staying safe in and around avalanche terrain in an understandable way, with time to practice all the skills I was learning.

  34. Brandon Mason (verified owner)

    The AIARE 1 course is an eye opening introduction to avalanche awareness and safety in avalanche terrain. I now have a completely different perspective when venturing into the mountains. CMS has a great program for everyone interested in hitting the backcountry.

  35. John Henderson (verified owner)

    The course was fantastic. After wrapping up, I felt that I had gained enough knowledge and confidence to safely venture into the backcountry, while still staying aware of what I don’t know. Overall it instilled the confidence to play and explore, but the wisdom to keep further education a top priority.

  36. jakeb212 (verified owner)

    This was truly an eye opening experience. Our guide Ben is a gentleman and a scholar, meticulous with his execution during every turn of the course. An absolute pleasure. Highly recommended.

  37. KATIE MAAS (verified owner)

    Booking through CSM was really easy and painless. During covid courses were online but not a hassle at all. (Actually, almost preferred being at home where I could take my time reading the material). Once out in the field with our guide Ben, we were in a smaller group -do to covid, and I love that small group dynamic. It really helped recreate a more realistic situation. Ben, was super helpful with a wealth of avalanche knowledge and with tips and tricks for navigating in the forever changing terrain. I could not recommend a better environment to feel safe and to learn the basics of being in the backcountry.

  38. Rowan Davis (verified owner)

    Awesome program. You learn so much in the classroom and it seems overwhelming, however, once you get out in the field it all starts to make sense and solidify.

  39. Lindsey Mason (verified owner)

    CMS has done an incredible adapting this class to an online portion and a safe field session. The online lessons were extremely user friendly and it was helpful to work through them at our own pace. The field session (2 days) was limited to a small group, we were safely masked up and distanced. Being able to do all of this training, effectively and safely, was amazing! We learned so much and I can’t wait to get out there and practice everything I have learned!

  40. John-Morgan Manos (verified owner)

    Ryan was awesome! Taught us so much about snow and risk mitigation. Feeling very equipped to enter the backcountry safely.

  41. acchapello (verified owner)

    Eryka was a wonderful instructor. She was knowledgeable, fun, and instructive. I feel like I gained so much experience and knowledge from working with her and the CMS team. This course is terrific for anyone looking to spend time in the winter backcountry.

  42. Loryn Roberson (verified owner)

    After pushing it off for a few seasons, I finally decided to invest in a split board and avalanche equipment and get serious about adventuring into the backcountry. In line with that, I knew I needed to invest in some proper backcountry education. I am glad I completed my AIARE Level 1 avalanche course with the Colorado Mountain School. The course was fun and informative. I feel so much more confident when it comes to making smart decisions in the backcountry. From route planning and understanding the forecast, to making educated observations in the field, and using my equipment efficiently – I’m a thousand miles ahead of where I was, and now I can practice drills and use my resources to further my knowledge. I’m so stoked for the many adventures ahead and I’m proud to have invested in something that brings me such joy. Thanks to the full team for sharing their knowledge and making this class super fun.

  43. Carter Nelson (verified owner)

    Great resource for those planning on going into the backcountry

  44. Sophia Volk (verified owner)

    I feel so much more comfortable in the backcountry after getting out there, learning snow science, and practicing rescue!

  45. richvogtjr (verified owner)

    My level of confidence and skill increased greatly because I attended this course!

  46. alexread730 (verified owner)

    CMS taught me the basics of avalanche terrain and rescue. I feel much more confident headed into the backcountry for my first season.

  47. Ben Lucas (verified owner)

    Truly amazing experience. I got everything I would have hoped to get out of the course and then some. I’ll be thinking of this past weekend, what I learned, and the expertise of our guide for a long time.

  48. James Orsulak (verified owner)

    Incredible, enjoyable and challenging avalanche and backcountry course! A must for anyone venturing into the backcountry.

  49. Austin Barber (verified owner)

    Zach was a fantastic course leader. His ability to simplify complex concepts, attitude, and knowledge are unmatched by any other instructor I have had.

  50. Kolby Wolf (verified owner)

    I left the course with a much better understanding of a Avalanche terrain and how to mitigate risks.

  51. Madeline Jimerson (verified owner)

    This was a great introduction to safety in the backcountry and it gave me the tools necessary to make smart decisions off piste.

  52. brian.a.causer (verified owner)

    My experience with CMS and guide/ instructor Dave K. surpassed expectations. The online work was in-depth and set the foundation for our field work. Access to the forums and google meets allowed for more exploration and specific questions.
    In the field work, our guide Dave K. was professional, effective, fun and eager to share his wealth of knowledge and experience. He established the team mindset from the start. Really could not have asked for a better learning experience.
    I feel confident in the foundation of science, observations skills and practical process to begin exploring the backcountry respectfully and safely. I will continue to work with CMS to further my skills and knowledge. Stellar Dendrites all the way!!!

  53. brian.a.causer (verified owner)

    My experience with CMS and guide/ instructor Dave K. surpassed expectations. The online work was in-depth and set the foundation for our field work. Access to the forums and google meets allowed for more exploration and specific questions. In the field work, our guide Dave K. was professional, effective, fun and eager to share his wealth of knowledge and experience. He established the team mindset from the start. Really could not have asked for a better learning experience. I feel confident in the foundation of science, observations skills and practical process to begin exploring the backcountry respectfully and safely. I will continue to work with CMS to further my skills and knowledge. Stellar Dendrites all the way!!!

  54. david jewell (verified owner)

    Took AIARE 1 with Japhy. He was incredibly informative and professional. Could not be happier with my experience. Looking forward to practical applications of Japhy’s class and returning in the future for additional courses. Thanks so much.

  55. Daryl Mocarsky (verified owner)

    Japhy was an excellent instructor. He’s knowledgeable and in the field experience is extensive. He make all the information easy to understand and the field days a ton of fun. After some field experience I’m definitely looking to take the AIARE II course. And will make sure to book the class with Japhy again. 10/10 would recommend the AIARE I through CMS to anyone looking to play in the mountains in winter. And encourage you to seek out Japhy for any and all guide/instructor outings offered!

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