December through April
Beginner to advanced
Laying the foundations for a safe backcountry travel
While going into the backcountry is fun, making safe decisions isn’t always straightforward when you’re in the field. A fundamental part of any backcountry adventurer’s toolkit is avalanche awareness, so brush up or re-educate yourself with this AIARE Level 1 avalanche course! This course offers the chance to learn the best practices for avalanche safety against a stunning backdrop in Aspen, Colorado. The Level 1 course includes around 8 hours of classroom instructions and 16 hours of active field time. If you plan to start your journey into the backcountry, this course is essential. Learn from the pros in some of the best backcountry terrain in the country.
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AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course in Aspen
This AIARE Level 1 class will help you lay down the foundations for safe backcountry travel. This comprehensive course will introduce you to recognizing and evaluating demanding weather conditions, decision-making on risky terrain and companion rescue. With detailed knowledge of the Colorado area and years of experience skiing the backcountry, your guides
will provide you with customized instructions and help you achieve your learning goals! What’s more, the course includes the AIARE manual, AIARE dues and the AIARE field book, helping you master both theory and practice. Learn how to evaluate and understand snowpack and route selection as you discover more about backcountry travel. Join a certified guide and learn about avalanche awareness in self-paced online classes and two exciting days in the field!
Given the current situation, the format of this course looks a little different this winter. Instead of classroom-based learning, coursework will be a mix of Zoom meetings with instructors and online, self-paced learning. Brush up on your theory and familiarize yourself with the goals of the course.
Field days will start around 8:00 am and end around 5:30 pm, and take place in Colorado’s White River National Forest, in the Elk Mountains next to Aspen. Get acquainted with the group and familiarize yourself with avy gear (beacons, probes, airbags, etc.). Go out with your guide and group and learn about:
- Types of avalanches
- Characteristics of avalanches
- How avalanches form and release
- Trip planning and preparation
- Rescue protocols and procedures
Meet your guide in the morning and spend the day learning:
- How to recognize and evaluate hazardous conditions
- How to make an educated decision on a risky terrain
- Companion rescue on avalanche terrain
- How to navigate winter mountain route selection
- How to evaluate and understand snowpack
Things you need to know
Covid measures in Aspen, CO
57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.
We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Aspen, please refer to the Colorado State and City of Aspen websites.
Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!
What you get in this adventure:
- An experienced AIARE certified instructor
- Two full days in the field (overall 16 hours)
- 8 hours of online classes
- Use of avalanche beacon, shovel, probe & ski pack
- AIARE dues ($15), AIARE manual and field book ($29.95)
- 3% USFS land use surcharge
What’s not included:
- Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
- Trip insurance
- Transport to and from Aspen and the meeting point
- Single-ride lift tickets ($41)
- Meals and snacks
How fit do I need to be?
In order to enjoy this avalanche course, you need to have an excellent level of fitness. Skiers must be able to hike for many hours at a time while carrying a small pack. You don’t need to be an advanced skier or boarder, but you do need to be able to ascend moderate slopes using skins. All participants should be comfortable traveling in snow under while carrying touring gear.
What equipment do I need to bring?
Avalanche safety technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:
- Alpine touring skis, telemark skis or splitboard with skins (can be rented)
- Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
- Avalanche safety equipment (included in the course cost):
- Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
- Lightweight snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
For personal items, we recommend bringing:
- Sunglasses or ski goggles
- Gloves and hat
- Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex recommended)
- Ski pants (Gore-Tex recommended)
- Down jacket or vest
- Synthetic or wool base layers, underwear and socks
- One triple-action locking carabiner or two conventional locking carabiners
- Repair kit and Leatherman for your equipment (can be shared between several people)
- Water bottle and 1L of water
- Thermos with a warm beverage — optional
- Food you can eat on-the-go
- First-aid kit
- Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-40L backpack)
- Camera — optional
Can I rent equipment?
Your guide will provide you with a daypack with a probe, shovel and avalanche beacon if you don’t have your own avy gear. If you need alpine touring ski equipment (AT skis, skins, boots) we can arrange to set you up at the guide’s shop in Aspen Highlands the night before your course between 3:00-5:00 pm. If you need gear, let us know and we can help make the arrangements.
What can I expect from this course?
During your self-paced online class, you will learn AIARE Level 1 skills. By spending two days in the Aspen backcountry, you will learn and implement new skills and techniques. By the end of the AIARE Level 1 Course you should be able to:
- Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain
- Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain
- Effectively use the AIARE Risk Management Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting
- Demonstrate effective companion rescue
Why should I book with 57hours?
With us, it’s all play and no work for you! 57hours is an open platform that connects you with trained and certified outdoor adventure professionals all over the world. Using our tech-savvy, we make it super easy to find and book adventures worth tackling, with guides worth booking, all gathered from the first-hand experiences of the locals who adventure in these amazing locations.
What about group sizes and pricing?
For this adventure, the max client to guide ratio is 6:1. The cost is per person and does not change due to the group size.
If you’d like to take a private course with just an instructor and your own group, AIARE Avalanche Level 1 courses in Aspen can be customized to your group’s specific needs. Contact us to make arrangements.
What is the minimum age requirement?
- Everybody over the age of 18 is welcome to book this backcountry skiing adventure.
- Minors may be permitted to join the course on a case-by-case basis. If you plan to take the course with anyone under the age of 18, please contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.
What about bad weather?
Mitigating avalanche risk is paramount for any excursion in the backcountry — that’s why it’s best to tour with a guide! Rest assured, your guide will set objectives that are attainable for the weather conditions on that particular day. Of course, inclement weather can always get in the way of backcountry skiing, but your guide will know the best course of action to take if the weather takes a turn.
On the rare occasion of truly bad weather, your guide will present you with suitable, safe alternatives. The most common practice is to move to a nearby location if it exists, or to reschedule your backcountry ski tour to a more favorable day.
If backcountry skiing is not possible on your scheduled day and no options presented are viable, you will be issued a full refund.
Do I need an insurance policy?
We highly recommended that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more.
If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!
With 57hours, you benefit from both our own cancellation policy as well as that of the individual guiding service that delivers your adventure. All policies regarding cancellation will be clearly laid out by your guide after booking your adventure, but rest assured that our own cancellation policy will work on top of what is provided by your guide.
For this adventure, 57hours offers a Moderate Cancellation Policy, which states:
If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. For cancellations fourteen (14) to twenty nine (29) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking. For cancellations zero (0) to thirteen (13) days in advance, the Client is not entitled to any refund.
For more information on terms and conditions, please visit our Terms of Service page.
Getting there and meeting location
To get to Aspen, most people fly into Denver International Airport or Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. From Denver, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service, like Colorado Mountain Express. It is a 3.5 hour drive to the Aspen area. Flying into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is a bit more expensive, but far more convenient as it is in the Aspen area. Other possible options include Eagle County Airport and Grand Junction Regional Airport.
Prior to departure, each group will meet at the Aspen Expeditions office located in Aspen Highlands Village. Field sessions will take place in the Aspen backcountry. Location may change depending on snow conditions.