Off-piste skiing allows you to escape the packed resorts and have snowy playgrounds to yourself, but venturing into the backcountry is no joke. Avalanches can strike out of the blue, so knowing what to do in these situations is a matter of great importance. If things do turn sour, all can easily be solved by arming yourself with the necessary avalanche safety skills. This is why taking an AIARE Level 2 Course in Colorado’s Estes Park is an absolute must. The area offers acres of ideal terrain and favorable conditions for you to learn how to interpret weather, snow, and avalanche observations, create a plan to manage a group in avalanche terrain, gain an insight into snow science and avalanche dynamics, and so much more! After this course with an experienced guide and the knowledge you’ll have, your next backcountry adventure will be smooth sailing.

  • Expand your knowledge in some of the finest backcountry terrain

  • Ideal conditions allow you to take your avalanche skills to a new level

  • Immerse yourself in the beauty of Estes Park’s wintry landscapes while honing your skills

Itinerary

Take to Estes Park’s powdery backcountry and join an AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course with an expert guide! Show your leadership skills within a small team in avalanche terrain, practice avalanche rescue, learn how to use and interpret snow, weather, and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain, and learn how to stay safe when traveling out of bounds.

  • This optional self-paced online refresher serves as a good reminder before the season/your course. You can access it in your Colorado Mountain School account, automatically created during the registration.

      • Lesson 1: Intro to Colorado Mountain School, AIARE, & 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
      • 7:30 am – 8:00 am: Meet at the trailhead, rental gear check out, hand out AIARE field books and Friends of CAIC trailhead membership
      • 8:00 am – 8:30 am: Morning hazard assessment meeting / trailhead transceiver function check
      • 8:30 am – 11:30 am: Companion rescue review and practice (single and multiple burial)
      • 11:30 am – 12:00 pm: Transition to instructor led tour to gather snpx obs.
      • 12:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Instructor demo; review of seasonal snowpack; craftsmanship, relevancy, and verification of snow observations; snowpack tests in the field.
      • 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Debrief observations in the field and return to the trailhead. Post observations to the local avalanche center.
    A backcountry skier shoveling snow during an AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course in Estes Park
      • 7:30 am – 8:00 am: Meet at the trailhead
      • 8:00 am – 8:15 am: Instructor/student-led morning hazard discussion (avalanches, snowpack, weather)
      • 8:15 am – 8:30 am: Student-led trailhead transceiver function check
      • 9:00 am – 2:00 pm: Instructor/student-led tour: track setting, terrain identification, snow profile (site selection; layer id; hardness scale; grain id; tests), snowpack structure; interpreting weather data, snow surface conditions, and snow profiles; metamorphism, sintering and bonding, persistent weak layers / facets, NSF, NCF, surface hoar
      • 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Debrief observations in the field
      • 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Return to the trailhead and summarize conditions and post to the local avalanche center
    A backcountry skier examining snow in Estes Park
      • 8:00 am – 8:15 am: Student-led morning hazard discussion (avalanches, snowpack, weather). Review the tour plan options from the night before
      • 8:15 am – 8:30 am: Student-led trailhead transceiver function check
      • 9:00 am – 2:00 pm: Student-led tour: verify stability forecast; group management / terrain selection / travel techniques
      • 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Debrief observations in the field
      • 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Return to the trailhead
      • 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Summarize conditions and post to the local avalanche center. Course conclusion; collect rental gear and discuss what the next steps are
    A backcountry skier during an AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course in Estes Park

Meet your guides

Jason Antin
5.00
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 emergen...
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Colorado Mountain School
5.00
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.
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5.00 (4 reviews)
Bryan Smith about Colorado Mountain School on Facebook

The guides are knowledgeable and professional. Highly recommended!

Kenzie Elise about Colorado Mountain School on Facebook

The instructors are so patient and knowledgeable!

Tom Soltys about Colorado Mountain School on Facebook

Always have an amazing learning experience and tons of fun with guides from CMS. Highly recommend them!!

Chris Curton about Colorado Mountain School on Facebook

Awesome experience, top notch, if u get the opportunity, take a course.

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
      • 3 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 8 hours. 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, as well as ski in powder, all on an AT/Telemark setup or a splitboard.

    Prerequisites:
    Participants must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain. An AIARE 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent Level 1 training is required, as well as an AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course. Although it is not required, it is suggested that you have had at least a year of backcountry travel experience after the Level 1 course before taking the AIARE 2 course.

  • 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
      • Snow study kit
      • 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
      • Slope meter (inclinometer) — optional
      • Snow saw — 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.

      • 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.
      • If joining alone, you’ll be placed with peers that share a similar level of experience.

    AIARE Level 2 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, you’ll meet up with your guide at the trailhead in Estes Park. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.

Have more questions? Read our FAQ,

Learning outcomes

With this guided AIARE Level 2 avalanche course in Estes Park you will learn how to:

    • Differentiate where specific avalanche hazards exist and identify avalanche terrain where consequences may be more severe
    • Use and interpret weather, snow, and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain prior to entering and while in the field
    • Demonstrate leadership skills within a small team
    • Implement a basic forecasting framework
    • Apply a routine to foster teamwork
    • Prepare for backcountry travel with seasonal and daily routines
    • Create a plan to manage a group traveling in avalanche terrain
    • Apply the ride-safely checklists to promote situational awareness
    • Review decisions and the decision-making process to develop experience through a daily debrief
    • Practice avalanche rescue and effectively use personal avalanche rescue equipment
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/ 3 days
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