AIARE 1 Avalanche Courses

Learn the avalanche essentials. Access the backcountry.

Learn the tools. access the backcountry.

The AIARE level 1 avalanche course is a 3-day course that will familiarize you with the decision-making tools that will help you manage risk while traveling in avalanche terrain. 

You will learn hands on in the snow, in the terrain, with an experienced teacher and guide.

$475 per person or $700 per person Hut based

why take a san juan expeditions avalanche course?

1. You will see the weak layers and problem snow grains with your own eyes. We are based out of Silverton, Colorado, one of the best places to learn about avalanches, an area known for its complex snowpack.  Red Mountain Pass alone has 122 named avalanche paths. 

2. You will learn how to travel through and avoid avalanche terrain with with an experienced mountain guide. Our Instructors are trained by the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) and are certified AIARE instructors (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education)

3. We are one of the few avalanche course providers that will help you gain experience. By taking a San Juan Expeditions AIARE Level 1 you get exclusive access to the SJE community, mentorship days, continued avalanche education, and an invite our Alumni Facebook Group; where you can find partners and chat with guides directly.

AIARE avalanche course 8

Student Reviews

Sign up now to reserve your 2020/2021 course datEs

Many of our courses are already sold out for the 2020/2021 season. If you would like to book a private course or hut based course please contact us.

AIARE level 1 Course Dates


*New for 2020/2021 season

3 days of on-snow instruction + additional online resources


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

Client to Guide Ratio:

Up to 6:1

Instructional Sessions

(Online classroom and in-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, Propigation Saw test
  • 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



$700 for hut based

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


  • 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 this thoroughly before the course.) *Snowshoes are not recommended for courses where deep new snow conditions or steep terrain are likely

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


Although the AIARE level 1 is an introductory course, you must have the skills to efficiently travel over snow, and ski/ride easy to intermediate terrain. You can also use snowshoes if you are not a skier/snowboarder but please let us know if this is your method of travel. 

If you are completely new to the backcountry consider taking one of our Intro to the Backcountry courses, where we can teach you everything about skinning, touring, and the basics of backcountry travel.

  • Skiers should be in good physical condition and able to ski/ride easy to intermediate terrain and travel over snow.
  • 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.

AIARE (American Institute for avalanche research and education)
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the north face logo

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.