Learn how to make decisions about appropriate backcountry snow travel.

The AIARE 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.” Participants can be on snowshoes, a backcountry ski setup, or split board. 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 guidelines of the AAA (American Avalanche Association) and AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) for a Level I course using an AIARE curriculum.

In order to receive your AIARE certificate, you will be required to complete AIARE’s online learning platform, prior to your course. Once you register, we will get you set up with your online learning.


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 will let you know the location we have chosen about one week before your course begins. You can expect us to be between Bishop and mammoth. We have a variety of options in the Bishop to Mammoth area and you should expect to drive 30-60 minutes each day. You should make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter travel. There will be no carpooling organized by SMC.


Participants can be on snowshoes, a backcountry ski setup, or split board. The down skiing or boarding will be limited since the emphasis is on learning, not turning, so we often find that it is not worth the expense of renting a splitboard set up just for the course. Unless you are thinking of buying and want to take the gear for a test run. For obvious reasons, please do not rent gear you do not know how to use well, unless it’s snowshoes.

AAA and AIARE suggest a maximum ratio of 1 instructor: 6 participants for the field sessions.
Lodging is not included.

The AIARE website has more information on what to look for in avalanche courses.