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Considering Colorado’s Estes Park is located on the front range of the mighty Rocky Mountains, it’s no surprise that the area boasts an endless amount of backcountry opportunities. The top-notch terrain on these serene off-piste playgrounds allow you to bolster your backcountry knowledge and become a more confident skier. However, it is also important to keep in mind that avalanches can occur out of nowhere and that they shouldn’t be taken lightly! This is why you need to be armed with a basic understanding of decision making in the field and valuable avalanche rescue techniques. No matter if you’re a skier, snowboarder, or you prefer strapping on a pair of snowshoes, let an expert guide show you what entails a safe backcountry trip—Estes Park is a perfect training ground to achieve just that. Your trips out of bounds will not only be safer, but also more enjoyable.

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  • With incredible snow and vistas, you’ll have a blast while learning

  • Develop essential avalanche safety skills on quality off-piste terrain

  • Online lessons coupled with practical application in the field provide an ideal learning experience


Build up your fundamental avalanche safety skills with this guided AIARE Level 1 Course in Estes Park! Learn all you need to know about hazard management in two online video conferences followed by two days in Estes Park’s true backcountry. Gain insight into what constitutes a safe backcountry trip and acquire a basic understanding of decision making in the field, as well as avalanche rescue techniques to locate and dig up a buried person.

      • Lesson 1: Intro to Colorado Mountain School, AIARE, and course logistics
      • Lesson 2: Track the season’s conditions
      • Lesson 3: Identifying avalanche terrain
      • Lesson 4: Avalanche rescue prep
      • Lesson 5: Teamwork in avalanche terrain

    During two days of video meetings with your guide, you will review your knowledge, have Q&A sessions, have a case study discussion and talk about mountain weather and gear preparations for the field.

      • 7:00 am – 7:45 am: Pods meet up at predetermined location in Estes Park, rental gear check out, reviewing the course itinerary
      • 8:00 am – 8:30 am: Carpooling to the trailhead and completing the trailhead transceiver function check
      • 8:30 am – 11:30 am: Companion rescue practice
      • 11:30 am – 12:00 pm: Transition to instructor led tour and snowpack observations
      • 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Terrain tour (ATES) and relevant snowpack observations
      • 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Debrief observations in the field and returning to the trailhead
    Students on a field day in Estes Park
      • 7:00 am – 7:30 am: Meet up in town, gear check, carpools
      • 7:30 am – 8:00 am: Morning discussion (avalanches, snowpack, weather)
      • 8:00 am – 8:30 am: Carpooling to the trailhead, completing the trailhead transceiver function check
      • 8:30 am – 2:00 pm: Student/Instructor-led tour: terrain Identification, recording observations in field books, snowpack tests / observations, weather observations, review companion rescue
      • 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Debriefing your pod in the field
      • 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Returning to the trailhead, handing in the rental gear, wrapping up the course and discussing the next steps


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Meet your guides

Jason Antin
Jason Antin
Jason’s love for teaching mountain craft and sharing the outdoors with others inspired him to move to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where he has been working as a guide for over a decade. He is highly trained in risk management and wilderness emergency medicine and is an incredibly competent guide in all areas of mountain exploration.
Colorado Mountain School
Colorado Mountain School
Colorado Mountain School
Founded in Estes Park in 1981, the Colorado Mountain School has built a solid and respected reputation in the mountain guiding community. Their team is highly trained and internationally certified — you can count on safety, fun, and adventure.
5.00 (4 reviews)
Dan Mabry (source: Google Reviews)

Took the hybrid AIARE 1 course with the field day being this past weekend. The online portion of the class was informative and thorough. I really enjoyed the ability to go at my own pace. Jason Antin was my guide. He taught us everything we needed to know to be empowered while exploring the backcountry. He kept our group empowered, but humble. Which let to a lot of learning and some great turns in some beautiful trees.

Noah Fields (source: Google Reviews)

Took an AIARE 1 course from CMS and absolutely loved it. It was a great experience and I learned a ton about avalanche safety and backcountry travel. I highly recommend CMS!

Excellent Outdoor Education
petesunden (source: TripAdvisor)

I took an ice climbing and AIARE Level I with these guys and I thought they were great! There’s an on-site hostel too for students that is very reasonable. My instructors were friendly, professional, and experts in their field. I look forward to taking more training with them.

Lacee G. (source: Yelp)

Took the AIARE Level 1 course and thought they did a great job. Lodging at the school / hostel for multi-day classes is totally worth it (just right upstairs!) and the community of people is fun and outdoorsy. You can see that the instructors are passionate about what they teach and want to engage the students. Advice for taking the Avalanche Level 1 course would be to get an AT ski setup (if you know how to ski) rather than the snowshoes, since I think you see more on your tour day. Also, the “Write in the Rain” weatherproof notebooks that they sell are more expensive than what you can get elsewhere, but they are specifically tailored to the course and seemed to be way more informative than others I have seen.

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 traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Estes Park, Colorado, please refer to Colorado’s COVID-19 Travel Guidelines and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    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, certified AIARE instructor with extensive knowledge of the area
      • 2 evenings of video conferences and 2 full days of training in the field
      • Snow Pack membership for the season
      • Digital AIARE course manual
      • AIARE field book and CMS field pencil
      • AIARE certificate of completion provided by AIARE
      • Friends of CAIC Trailhead membership
      • Use of backcountry avalanche equipment during course (beacon, shovel, probe)
      • Snowshoes

    What’s not included:

      • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
      • Transportation
      • Food
      • Accommodation
      • Clothing, backpack, and non-technical personal items
      • Park entrance fees
  • 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 about 6 hours on both days while in the field. 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.

    If you’re planning on taking the course on snowshoes, you don’t need any prior experience. If you’re joining this course on a ski or splitboard touring setup, you’ll need to be skiing or riding at an intermediate to advanced level and you have to have prior experience with ski touring so that you can focus on getting the most out of your avalanche training and not on your gear or movement.

  • For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:

      • Alpine touring skis, telemark skis, splitboard with skins, snowboard, or snowshoes (can be rented)
      • Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
      • Ski straps — optional
      • Avalanche safety equipment (included in the price):
        • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
        • Lightweight snow shovel
        • Avalanche probe

    For personal items, we recommend bringing:

      • Ski helmet
      • Sunglasses or ski goggles
      • Beanie or fleece hat
      • Sun hat
      • Face mask
      • Neck gaiter
      • Synthetic lightweight gloves
      • Midweight softshell glove
      • Heavyweight waterproof gloves
      • Wind and waterproof softshell and fleece jacket with hood
      • Synthetic or down puffy jacket
      • Waterproof shell jacket
      • Lightweight and midweight synthetic or wool base layer tops and bottoms
      • Hardshell pants
      • Synthetic or wool base layers, underwear and socks
      • Toe warmers and hand heaters
      • 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 2L of water
      • Thermos with a warm beverage
      • Food you can eat on-the-go
      • First-aid kit — optional
      • Personal toilet kit — optional
      • Sunscreen
      • Headlamp with fresh batteries
      • Backpack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 20-40L backpack)
      • Lip balm (SPF 15 or higher)
      • Food you can eat on the go
      • Hot drinks — optional
      • Laptop — optional
      • Compass — optional
      • Camera — optional
  • All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

      • Avalanche safety pack, including beacon, shovel and probe will be provided by your guiding service
      • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots and poles can be rented from Neptune Mountaineering
      • Splitboards can be rented from Neptune Mountaineering

    Ski rental locations are in Boulder, CO, 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 sizes and pricing:

      • For this course, the max. client to guide ratio is 6:1.
      • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

    AIARE Level 1 courses in Estes Park can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

    Min. age requirements:

      • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
  • To get to Estes Park, most people fly into Denver International Airport 1.5 hours from Estes Park. From there, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service and a taxi.

    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 a predetermined location. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.

    For the online courses, your Colorado Mountain School account will be automatically created during registration. Video calls are held every Monday and Wednesday night the week prior to your field days.

  • Full payment to secure your place is due upon booking. Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies.

      • If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is eligible to reschedule to another available date, receive a full credit for a future course or a full refund minus a 10% administrative fee.
      • For cancellations seven (7) to twenty-nine (29) calendar days in advance, Client may request the course to be rescheduled to another available date or receive a credit for future use both subject to a 10% processing fee.
      • After that deadline, Client is not entitled to any refund.
Have more questions? Read our FAQ, or Talk with us

Learning outcomes

At the end of this guided AIARE 1 course in Estes Park, you should be able to:

    • Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain
    • Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain
    • Effectively use the AIARE Decision Making Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting
    • Demonstrate effective companion rescue

You will also learn the following things about traveling in avalanche terrain:

    • Types of avalanches and their characteristics
    • How avalanches form and release
    • Primary start-zone factors
    • Identifying avalanche terrain
    • Ways to spot and avoid common trigger points
    • Trip planning, preparation, and navigation
    • Travel techniques
    • Group decision-making skills
    • Avalanche rescue techniques
    • Weather, terrain, and snowpack considerations
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