November through April
Eagle, CO, is half an hour away; Denver and Aspen are 2 hours away
Beginner to advanced
Travel safely and explore the best of the backcountry
Eager to head to the backcountry to escape the crowds this winter? We get it! Although backcountry travelling is nothing short of fun, paying special attention to avalanche safety is fundamental to your good time. Gain the decision-making skills necessary to evaluate and travel in avalanche terrain with this AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course! There is no better way to brush upon your backcountry education than the amazing powder-filled scenery of Vail, Colorado. The Level 1 course includes a one-day remote classroom session, followed by two full days in the field. Learn from the very best and become skilled in exploring the most impressive backcountry terrain in the area!
Book This Adventure
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course in Vail
This AIARE Level 1 course will help prepare you for the unexpected when exploring the backcountry. During this three-day comprehensive course — consisting of 27 hours of avalanche education — you will get introduced to the skills necessary to make confident and informed decisions in challenging avalanche conditions. Thanks to up-to-date information, modern practices and qualified instructors, you will easily master all the foundations of safe backcountry travel. 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!
You will meet with your instructor for a remote-class day of discussion, planning, and group activities prior to your weekend field days. You will also be expected to complete a series of pre-course e-learning modules provided by AIARE and evening assignments during the course. Since the course includes a student manual, AIARE field book and AIARE certificate of completion, you will easily excel both in practice and theory! Wait no more and join your guide in the most eye-opening and rewarding adventure in the backcountry!
Online classes: Given the current situation, the format of this course looks a little different this winter. Instead of classroom-based learning, the Friday classroom session will be conducted remotely via Zoom. Classroom days will start around 9:00 am and end around 5:00 pm. Students participating virtually will still be able to engage in group discussion and view instructors via the online platform. Completion of prerequisite e-learning modules is required by AIARE prior to the start of all courses. Participants should be prepared for the AIARE Level 1 modules to take about four hours. You will learn about:
- How behavior can affect interaction with the backcountry
- Trip planning and preparation
- Risk management and decision-making
- Human influence in:
- Group dynamics
The topics listed above will first be discussed in the classroom then applied in person during the weekend field days.
Field days: Field days will start around 8:00 am, end around 5:00-5:30 pm, and take place in Vail Valley, Vail Pass or Fremont Pass. Get acquainted with the group and familiarize yourself with avy gear (beacon, probe, shovel and airbag), then head out with your guide and group and learn about:
- Trip planning and preparation
- Beacon, shovel and probe use
- Avalanche rescue, beacon search and strategic shoveling
- Identifying and evaluating avalanche terrain
- Route-finding, terrain management and travel techniques
- Group management
- Snow pit and snow layer analysis and tests
- Questions to ask in risk evaluation
- Identifying “red flags”
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Things you need to know
Covid measures in Vail, 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 Vail, please refer to the Colorado State and City of Vail 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
- One classroom day
- Two full days in the field
- Student manual
- AIARE Field Book
- AIARE certificate of completion
- SANS meal bar
What’s not included:
- Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
- Trip insurance
- Transport to and from Vail and the meeting point
- Additional 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 (can be rented):
- Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
- Lightweight snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
For personal items, we recommend bringing:
- Sunglasses or ski goggles
- Gloves, hat and neck gaiter or balaclava
- 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)
- Clinometer (BCA slope meter, also available on compasses)
- Ground mat (insulation so you can sit on snow)
- Notebook (for lecture day)
- Headlamp and batteries
- Loupe (at least 10x zoom)
- Snow Saw (minimum 30cm)
- Snow crystal card
- Hand warmers
- 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?
All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:
- Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel and probe can be rented from your guide
- Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots and poles can be rented from Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge, Wilderness Sports in Dillon, and from Alpine Quest in Edwards.
- Splitboards can be rented from Alpine Quest in Edwards.
Ski rental locations are in Dillon, Edwards and Breckenridge, and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make 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 Vail backcountry, you will learn and implement new skills and techniques. By the end of the AIARE Level 1 avalanche course you will know about:
- The characteristics and types of avalanches
- Movement of avalanches
- Classifications by size and danger scale
- Mountain snowpack: metamorphism and layering
- Heuristics or human factors and group management
- Mapping, time management, route finding and navigation, as well as the latest standardized electronic tools and data/planning sites
- Using the AIARE field book
- 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.
If you’d like to take a private course with just an instructor and your own group, AIARE Avalanche Level 1 courses in Vail 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 Vail, 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 two-hour drive to the Vail area from both airports. The closest possible option is actually the Eagle County Airport, only a 45 minutes away and offering domestic flights.
Prior to departure, each group will meet with their instructor for a remote-class day of discussion, planning, and group activities prior to their weekend field days. Field sessions will take place in the Vail backcountry. Your guide will suggest the best place to meet, whether that’s at the guide shop or a predetermined location. Location may change depending on snow conditions.