AIARE 1 Avalanche Course

Learn the avalanche essentials and travel techniques from an experienced San Juan Expeditions Guide, not just another instructor.

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Learn the tools you need to access the backcountry

The AIARE 1 is a 3-day course that will get you familiar with the decision-making tools to help manage your risk while traveling in avalanche terrain. You will actually get to ski/ride on our courses, that way you will learn hands on in the snow, in the terrain, with an experienced teacher and guide.

On a San Juan Expeditions avalanche course you teacher is an AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) trained guide and a certified AIARE instructor. This allows us to take you to real terrain, in which we adopt a philosophy of practice like you play. You will get a taste for the epic backcountry ski terrain of the San Juans Mountains and Red Mountain Pass has to offer while learning the avalanche essentials. 


The San Juan expeditions difference

We are committed helping you gain the experience and knowledge you need to access the backcountry; we are not just another avalanche school. Our guide service has been operating in the complex snowpack of the San Juan Mountains for over 15 years.

In addition to having a real backcountry experience on your course, you will gain exclusive access to our avalanche course alumni facebook page, and our avalanche alumni mentorship days. 



Up to 6:1 


The AIARE Level 1 is delivered over the course of 3 days / 24 hours of instructional time, both classroom and field.               *for hut-based courses, students will arrive the night prior

DAY 1: Classroom-based (this lets us spend the next two full days in the field).

DAY 2: The AM is spent on companion rescue skills: becoming proficient with our transceivers, practicing proper probing techniques and strategic shovelling. In the PM we will talk snow science and take data from the snowpack, covering standardized and non-standardized bonding tests, pit digging, and how to extrapolate info from the snowpack.

DAY 3: We put it all to use! Final day is a full tour day, with students in front leading the group. Everyone will have the opportunity to be in a leadership role and practice using the Decision Making Framework. 


  • +/- 8 hours of classroom instruction; +/- 16 hours of field instruction
  • AIARE Manual + Field Book; AIARE student fees
  • AMGA and AIARE Trained Ski or Splitboard Guide
  • Avalanche safety equipment (beacon, shovel, probe)
  • Federal Land Use Surcharge (USFS/BLM)
  • 3 nights lodging, breakfast & dinners on but-based courses


  • Guide gratuity
  • Personal snacks for lunch / daytime
  • Backcountry touring equipment: skis or splitboard, boots, skins, etc. These are available to rent at an additional fee from our partner shop Backcountry Experience
  • Personal clothing / gear: check out our recommended gear lists for Avalanche Courses and Hut Trips


Skiers/riders should be in good physical condition, and be fairly confident / comfortable on their method of snow travel (backcountry touring skis or splitboard). We would love to ski with you before the course; consider booking a day of backcountry skiing/riding!

Course outcomes

  • Intro to the Avalanche Phenomenon: types and characteristics of avalanches; avalanche motion; size classification; the mountain snowpack (intro to metamorphism and layering).
  • Observations & Information Gathering: field observation techniques; bonding tests (rutschblock, compression test); avalanche danger factors / ‘Red Flags’; observation checklist; avalanche danger scale; trip planning & preparation; avalanche terrain recognition, assessment and selection; route finding and travel techniques; decision-making and Human Factors; companion rescue & equipment.


      Please familiarize yourself with our Booking & Cancellation Policies.


      Anyone participating in our programs must fill out a Waiver beforehand. If you are under 18, please have parent/guardian complete.