Enthusiasts know that the very best skiing can be found in the backcountry, but experts understand that crowd-free pleasures on untracked snow come with a risk. In the dazzling but deceptive wilderness, gear can only take you so far. That’s why it’s important to equip yourself with knowledge. This AIARE Level 1 course is a two-part introduction to avalanche hazard management—carried out in the comfort of a beautiful backcountry ski hut and in Crested Butte’s winter wonderland, where hands-on learning under a professional guide will fast-track your skills in no time. Learn more about avalanche awareness from AMGA Mountain Guide Rob Coppolillo.

  • Recognizing hazards is an indispensable tool in the backcountry

  • The usual classroom setting is replaced by a cozy ski hut

  • Develop your skills while enjoying Crested Butte’s stellar slopes


Learn the fundamentals of avalanche safety in this hut-based AIARE Level 1 course that will help you make the most of your time on the snow. Enjoy a unique classroom setting in the picturesque Gothic Hut System, then head out with your guide for first-hand study in the field. At the end of this three-day course, you’ll know how to prepare, handle difficulties, and employ rescue techniques in the volatile backcountry.

      • How to efficiently plan for a trip to the backcountry
      • How to recognize hazardous avalanche terrain and distinguish between different types of avalanche
      • How to analyze avalanche forecasts before heading out into the backcountry
      • Basic understanding of snow packs and terrain features
      • Educated decision-making and group management
      • Basic rescue techniques

Meet your guide

Irwin Guides
Irwin Guides
Whether snow, ice, mountain, rock, trail or water, Irwin Guides is setting the standard in the world of adventure sports with local, knowledgeable, IFMGA/AMGA certified guides.
5.00 (2 reviews)
Rob Y. about Irwin Guides

Thanks for the trip. With my girlfriend and I having varying degrees of experience, you were great in leading a mind blowing, back country, mountain ski experience. The Hut in Gothic was very comfortable. The food was perfect for the occasion. Even with the snow conditions being as they were, the skiing was still great because you used your knowledge of the local snow to seek out the good ‘stuff.’ We were both impressed with your knowledge of avalanches, your professional background; (the years you spent in ski patrol, and the guiding) and the ability to bring it all together in a good time. Looking forward to booking additional trips with you in the near future.

Nikki LaRochelle about Irwin Guides

I took the Level 1 Avalanche Course this past weekend and didn’t get to thank Scott and Ross. They both did such a great job. I’m sure it’s hard to be enthusiastic about teaching this stuff over and over again, but that certainly was not the case, and their interest and demeanor was much appreciated.

Things to know

  • 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 Crested Butte, CO please refer to the Official Colorado COVID-19 Update Website.

    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:

      • A professional backcountry guide/AIARE-qualified instructor
      • Accommodation
      • Breakfast, lunch and dinner in the huts
      • AIARE Level 1 Course manual
      • AIARE field book
      • AIARE Level 1 certificate upon completion of the course
      • Knowledge of the areas/routes you’ll be visiting during the course
      • Rescue access, coordination, and response if necessary
      • A full 2 days in the field and 1 day of online learning

    What’s not included:

      • Avalanche safety gear
      • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
      • Snacks
  • In order to get the most of this adventure, you need to have a moderate level of fitness. You will be on your feet for a full day. You will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on challenging blue or black level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.

    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 while carrying touring gear. There are no other prerequisites.

  • For 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:

    • Helmet
    • 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
    • Sunscreen
    • Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-40L backpack)
      Camera — optional
  • All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

      • Avalanche safety pack, including the beacon, shovel and probe can be rented from your guide
      • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots and poles can be rented from The Alpineer in Crested Butte
      • Splitboard set-up can be rented from your guide

    Gear rental locations are in Crested Butte 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.

  • Group size:

      • This course is not private. For the group course, the usual guest-to-guide ratio is 6:1. Groups usually consist of 10 people with 2 guides.
      • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

    AIARE Level 1 Courses in Crested Butte can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

    Min. age requirements:

      • You must be at least 16 years old to participate.
  • The simplest way to reach Crested Butte is by taking a flight to Denver International Airport. From there, it’s a 4-5 hour drive to Crested Butte, depending on the weather conditions. Renting a car is recommended.

    Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, whether that’s at the guide shop or at a backcountry trailhead within 20 min of Crested Butte. You will be informed about the location via email in advance. Be aware that the location may be subject to change based on the weather or snow coverage conditions.

Have more questions? Read our FAQ, or Book a call
From $5,150
/ 2 days
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