AIARE Avalanche Courses

in The San Juan mountains

The San Juan Expeditions difference

As the birthplace of American avalanche research and education, the San Juan Mountains are the best place to take an avalanche course.

San Juan Expeditions has a combined experience of over 50 years guiding and recreating in the complex snowpack of these mountains.

Our goal is to give you the tools you need so you can reduce your own risk, and make the backcountry community safer as a whole by contributing to the discussion.

AIARE level 1 avalanche course students

But What about after my avalanche course?

After your course your San Juan Expeditions guide will be there for you as a mentor and to help you gain experience in a sensible way. We don’t just load you up with a bunch of avalanche theory and expect that you will automatically make good decisions. We are here to help you on your journey and to show you the some of most incredible terrain you have ever seen.

As a San Juan Expeditions Avalanche Course Alumni you are part of our community: 

Exclusive access to the Avalanche Alumni Facebook page, so you can find new partners and get our avalanche condition reports for the San Juans and Elk Mountains.

Exclusive access to our Avalanche Alumni Mentorship Days, guided backcountry days designed specifically to help you gain experience in the backcountry and learn new skills that cannot be covered in an avalanche course.

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Course dates and information

AIARE level 1 Course Dates

AIARE Level 2 dates

  • January 22nd – 24th, 2021
  • February 5th – 7th, 2021
  • February 26th – March 1st, 2021
  • March 19th – March 22nd


*New for 2020/2021 season

3 days of on snow instruction + additional online resources


Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass, Red Mountain Pass, Silverton, CO


See above for pricing.


Client to Guide Ratio

Up to 6:1

Instructional Sessions

Both classroom and field instruction)

Introduction to the Avalanche Phenomena

  • Types and characteristics of avalanches
  • Avalanche motion
  • Size classification
  • The mountain snowpack: an introduction to metamorphism and layering

Observations and Information Gathering

  • Field observation techniques
  • Stability tests: rutschblock, compression test, extended column tests
  • Avalanche danger factors; “Red Flags”.
  • Observation checklist
  • Avalanche danger scale
  • Trip Planning and Preparation
  • Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
  • Route finding and travel techniques
  • Decision making and Human Factors
  • Companion Rescue and Equipment


Price Includes

  • AIARE qualified instructors
  • AMGA Trained/Certified Ski Guide, Alpine Guide, or IFMGA Licensed Mountain Guide as the lead instructor
  • AIARE Course Manual
  • AIARE Avalanche field book.
  • AIARE Certificate of Completion
  • Use of avalanche equipment
  • Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Guidelines (level 2 course only)
  • Hut course includes three nights at the Addie S Cabin, breakfasts and dinners while on course
  • Federal Land Use Surcharge (USFS/BLM)

Price Does Not Include

  • Travel to Durango, CO from your location
  • Backcountry ski touring equipment; skis, skins, packs etc.  These are all available to rent from our partner shop Backcountry Experience. Additional fees apply for ski equipment rental.  Please inquire for more information.
  • Personal clothing and ski equipment
  • Drinks and personal snacks
  • Guide/Staff gratuity

Personal Equipment

  • Clothing for activities and standing in cold/snowy weather (no cotton)
  • Long underwear
  • Insulating layers
  • Outer layer (wind/waterproof)
  • Warm gloves, mitts, headband, hat
  • Goggles and sunglasses
  • Small personal first aid kit (sunscreen/lip-balm, moleskin, band-aids, medication, etc.)
  • Water Bottle
  • Pack

Skiing Equipment

  • Boots (touring boots recommended)
  • Skis with touring bindings and skins (please adjust bindings to boots and skins to skis before the course) *Randonee or free-heel gear is okay.
  • Poles
  • May be rented from Backcountry Experience. Choose this option at checkout

Snowboarding Equipment

  • Split Board with touring bindings and skins (please adjust bindings to boots and skins to board before the course) *For students arriving at the course with snowboarding equipment, split boards are recommended, as compared to traveling with snowshoes.
  • Boots
  • Collapsible poles OR Snowboard (with means of attachment to pack—please have a system worked out before you come on the course)
  • May be rented from Backcountry Experience. Choose this option at checkout


  • Snowshoes (adjusted to boots, please test thoroughly before the course. *Snowshoes are not recommended for courses where deep new snow conditions or steep terrain will likely be experienced

Avalanche Rescue Equipment – provided free of charge

  • Avalanche probe
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Avalanche transceiver (digital 457 kHz frequency only)
  • Cell phone or two-way radio (OPTIONAL)

Other Equipment

  • Pack large enough to fit all equipment on day tours
  • Field notebook (AIARE Field Notebook is included with all San Juan Expeditions AIARE courses)
  • The Avalanche Handbook, 3rd Edition: May be purchased at Backcountry Experience
  • Pencils (two, mechanical)
  • Pocket Knife


  • Skiers should be in good physical condition and able to ski/ride easy to intermediate terrain and travel over snow.
  • There are a lifetime of ski tours with different difficulties in the San Juan Mountains.
  • If you do not possess these skills or need review please contact us

Booking & Cancelation

  • We require a full credit card or cash/check payment to hold your reservation.
  • If you choose to cancel within 7 days of a scheduled trip, you will be charged full price.
  • Within 7-14 days of your trip, we would be happy to work out a date to reschedule. If you choose to cancel 2 weeks or more (3 weeks or more for multi-day trips of 5+ people) prior to your scheduled trip, you will receive a full refund.

Risk Management

  • Please note: San Juan Expedition’s number one priority is your safety. Many conditions affect our guides’ decisions in the mountains, including client fitness and comfort, weather conditions and route conditions. There are inherent hazards in mountain travel such as inclement weather, avalanches, rock fall, ice fall that our guides manage yet cannot eliminate. The combination of our guides’ formal training and wealth of experience assures that their sound decision create an enjoyable and safe mountain experience. San Juan Expeditions reserves the right to turn around or change routes without refunds or credits under any conditions.

Learn the snow, access the mountains