AIARE Avalanche Level 1 Course in Cooke City

Cooke City | Montana
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to upgrade your skills in Cooke City

  • Trip Highlight

    Head to the Cooke City area for a thrilling and memorable learning experience

  • Trip Highlight

    Easy access due to Cooke City’s location right under the mountain

  • Trip Highlight

    Abundance of treeline and high alpine tours for anyone’s taste and skill level

The rugged, humble nature of Cooke City’s mountains, as well as its excellent powder, make it a true backcountry mecca. Located next to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park, this area gets the most snow out of any region in Southwest Montana. Also, the combination of storms that frequently sweep through the nearby Snake River Basin and the cold, high peaks means abundant, low-density snow and phenomenal ski quality! Cooke City’s slopes aren’t lacking in the diversity department either – areas like Republic and Sheep Creek provide an array of options for beginners, while the more advanced backcountry skiers will find their place in the higher alpine tours in the Beartooth mountains. If you’re looking for a place to spice up your AIARE education, Cooke City’s snowy slopes are a no-brainer!


December through February

Nearest city

Billings is 2,5 hours away from Cooke City


3-4 days

Skill level

Beginner to advanced


Choose how you spend your days

Town-Based AIARE Level 1 Course

3 days

Learn techniques and skills that may one day save your life straight out of Cooke City in this individual 3-day course. Once you arrive in Cooke City, you are in the mountains and ready to learn. Your class time will be spent downtown, and your field sessions will take place in the powdery mountains above!

Town-Based AIARE Level 1 Course + Powder

4 days

Want some fun skiing to go with your AIARE education? Choose this Level 1 Course with an additional powder day! Learn everything you need to know about the basics of avalanche safety from experienced and certified backcountry guides. And when you wrap up your studies, enjoy a whole day of testing your skills on Cooke City’s excellent glades and alpine slopes!

Trip Highlights

Learning outcomes

Day 1: Introduction

The first day will start with a meeting at a previously arranged location, where you will get an introduction to the topics and the itinerary. A discussion on avalanche concepts, types, anatomy, and key terms will set the foundation for the course. Learn about avalanche problems, and how to review and interpret the current avalanche bulletin and local season summary. After a gear check, pack up and head into the field or to the hut. In the afternoon, learn about beacon wear and care, functionality and use exercises, participate in a small-scale companion rescue demo and clinic, a large-scale rescue scenario, and learn about mountain weather and snow climates.

Day 2: Learning about snow

Review the previous day’s topics, and learn about slab avalanches, weak layer formation, and field observation. On tour, discuss snowpack observations, tests, and terrain identification and management in relation to avalanche problems. After a debrief tour, share observations and interpret how they relate to the avalanche bulletin, and learn about snow profile documentation.

Day 3: Learning about decision making

After a short review of day 2, learn about human factors, rational vs. emotional decision making, and utilizing tools. On tour, discuss snowpack observations, terrain management, and decision-making based on avalanche problems and hazards. Finish with a debrief and head back to town.

Optional Day 4: Powder

Spend one day in the mountains completely dedicated to powder skiing. Enjoy a day on skis and get some hands-on experience under the watchful eye of a guide! 


Reviews (1)

Excellent backcountry hosts
TonyFG about Beartooth Powder Guides on TripAdvisor

I recently spent four days and three nights at the Woody Creek Cabin operated by Beartooth Powder Guides. Ben and his team took excellent care of us and ensured that all of our needs were met. Not only was their hospitality top-notch, but their snow safety was second-to-none. Lastly, and most importantly, Ben and his team absolutely came through with the goods, finding us some excellent powder and tree skiing. I would not hesitate to book a trip with Beartooth again.

Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in Cooke City, Montana

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, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Cooke City, Montana, please refer to the Montana Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force 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’s included?

What you get in this adventure: 

  • An experienced, certified guide with extensive knowledge of the area
  • 3 days of mixed classroom and field sessions
  • A day of skiing (for the Powder course)

What’s not included:

  • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
  • Transportation 
  • Accommodation 
  • Food and snacks

How fit do I need to be?

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.

What equipment do I need to bring?

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:

  • Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-40L backpack)
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles
  • Gloves or mittens (2 pairs recommended, light and heavy)
  • Sun visor or brimmed hat, stocking cap, buff or bandana
  • 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
  • Mid layer vest and/or top
  • 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
  • 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 Grizzly Outfitters in Big Sky, MT
  • Splitboards can be rented from Grizzly Outfitters in Big Sky, MT 

If you rent ski touring equipment in Big Sky, MT, it should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know during the booking process and we can help make arrangements.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and pricing:

  • The courses based out of Cooke City are not private. For the group courses, the usual guest-to-guide ratio is 4:1, with a max limit of 8 students per course.

Min. age requirements:

  • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
  • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis.

If your group has skiers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to Cooke City, most people fly into Billings Logan International Airport or Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. From there, you can rent a car and take a 3-hour drive to Cooke City. Alternatively, you can take a bus to either Cody or Livingston, and then rent a car to Cooke City. Both trips will take you about 4 hours. 

For parts of fall, spring and all of winter, roads to the east of Cooke City are closed. During that time, you have to enter Yellowstone at its North Entrance by Gardiner or bring a snowmobile in from the east.

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 in Cooke City or a predetermined location. From there, you’ll head to your tour. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ski ability of the group.

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