Making safe decisions in the backcountry isn’t always straightforward when you’re in the field, especially when there’s avalanche danger. Having awareness of your surroundings and knowing what to do in tenuous icy terrain is an essential skill if you’re looking to go big and far for your next adventure. This is why Crested Butte, Colorado, the “last great Colorado ski town”, should be your choice for an AIARE Level 2 Avalanche course. This old mining town guarantees a thrilling learning experience. Learn how to recognize hazards and potential dangers while managing and minimizing risk in avalanche zones, all the while soaking in the picturesque mountain life in your downtime. What’s not to love?

  • Challenging terrain adds an exciting element to the learning experience

  • Thousands of acres of snowy wilderness at your disposal

  • Thrilling double black diamond slopes to conquer in your downtime


After a day of Zoom classes, head to Crested Butte for 2 days of field sessions where you’ll upgrade your knowledge gained in the AIARE Level 1 Course. In the mornings, join your guide in examining local weather forecasts and discuss possible hazards. You will learn all about snowpack and avalanche processes, identifying them and, taking them into consideration, plan the day’s routes accordingly. Advance your survival skills, such as leading small groups, traversing complex terrains and managing with low resources.

      • Differentiating where specific avalanche hazards exist within the landscape and identifying avalanche terrain where consequences may be more severe.
      • Using and interpreting weather, snow and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain prior to entering and while in the field.
      • Demonstrating leadership skills within a small team that include facilitating small group discussion, promoting appropriate terrain selection, and utilizing simple risk management strategies.
      • Implementing a basic forecasting framework that can be used in conjunction with and in the absence of local supporting avalanche information.

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 (3 reviews)
Nikki L. 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.

Sally K. about Irwin Guides

We had the BEST time! Not only is Amy nice, but her expertise on the river and safety instructions were excellent. My daughter (ICU nurse) and I (old ER nurse) really appreciated Amy’s “readiness” for possible problems. We are already planning next season’s adventure.

Skylar K.

Life Lessons from an Avalanche Education Course
Over the course of my three-day class, I was pleasantly surprised to learn some fundamental lessons that have become essential not only in my backcountry toolkit but also in life beyond avalanche terrain. (…) During the course, Chris would constantly remind us to slow down, monitor conditions, look for avalanche activity and reassess our plan along the way. (…)I thought about how lessons like this from the backcountry truly parallel life in a fascinating way. I’m already anticipating taking my Level 2 Rec avalanche education course not just for the mountaineering skills, but also for more life lessons I’ll pick up along the way.

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, Colorado, 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
      • AIARE Level 2 course curriculum
      • AIARE Level 2 Student Manual
      • AIARE Field Book
      • Knowledge of the areas/routes you’ll be visiting during the course
      • Rescue access, coordination, and response if necessary
      • A full 3 days in the field

    What’s not included:

      • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
      • Accommodation
      • Food and 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.

    Participants must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain. An AIARE 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent Level 1 training is required. A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is highly recommended before taking the AIARE 2 course, AIARE or AAA approved one-day Avalanche Rescue Course.

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

      • Touring set up (AT/tele skis & skins or a splitboard & skins, poles, and boots)
      • Touring equipment (can be rented)
      • Backcountry ski pack (25 – 45 liters)
      • Basic avalanche safety gear (can be rented):
        • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
        • Lightweight snow shovel
        • Avalanche probe

    For personal items, we recommend bringing:

      • Synthetic or wool under layers (no cotton!)
      • Synthetic or wool mid layers (fleece jacket, vest, soft shell jacket – no cotton!)
      • Down or synthetic puffy jacket
      • Weather proof jacket and pants
      • Gloves x 2 pairs (we suggest 1 pair for skinning/taking notes and one pair for skiing/riding)
      • Beanie x 2 (nice to have an extra)
      • Buff, neck gaiter or balaclava
      • Ball cap or visor (especially for sunny days)
      • Goggles
      • Sunglasses
      • Sunscreen & lip protection
      • Full water bottles (at least 1 liter), bladder systems discouraged
      • Thermos w/ hot beverage (tea, hot cocoa, coffee, etc.)
      • Plenty of snacks & lunch
      • Pen or pencil to take notes
      • Headlamp
      • Extra batteries for headlamp and beacon
      • Camera — optional

    If you already own a basic snow study kit, pack it. If not, our guides will discuss what tools they recommend. There will be snow study tools available to purchase during your course. We recommend that your kit includes: slope meter or inclinometer; crystal card; hand lens (8x-10x magnification); snow saw; and ruler or probe in graduated cm.

    If you have any questions about what to pack for your day in the backcountry don’t hesitate to contact us.

  • All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

    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.

      • These courses are not private. For the group courses, the usual guest to guide ratio is 6:1. Group usually consist of 12 people with 2 guides.
      • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

    AIARE Level 2 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 the Denver International Airport. From there, you are a 4-5 hour drive away to Crested Butte, depending on the weather conditions. Renting a car is recommended.

    You will usually meet your guides at backcountry trailheads 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,
From $550
/ 3 days
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