Avalanche Education Courses

Avalanche Education

Southwest Rescue markets and promotes avalanche education courses provided by San Juan Mountain Guides (SJMG) using curriculum from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).

Details concerning course dates, locations, prices and more can be obtained by contacting the SJMG office.

AIARE’s Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain curriculum is a three-part program for individuals who enjoy winter recreation in the backcountry.
Over the course of AIARE’s program, participants will learn:
  • How to prepare for backcountry travel with seasonal and daily routines
  • How to use planning tools and checklists to facilitate communicating and making decisions as a group in order to reduce risk
  • How to do a companion rescue
  • Techniques to continue to improve their rescue skills after a course completion

The entire Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain program includes seven days of classroom, field, and self-paced online training. The curriculum is typically delivered in the following parts:  Avalanche Rescue (1 day),  the AIARE 1 (3 days), and the AIARE 2 (3 days).


3 days (24 hours)

No courses currently scheduled.

The AIARE 1 course is a 3 day/24 hour introduction to avalanche hazard management. The course is expected to:

  • Provide a basic understanding of avalanches
  • Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain
  • Focus on identifying the right questions, rather than on providing ‘answers’.
  • Give lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.

Students can expect to develop a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a trip, to understand basic decision making while in the field, and to learn rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person (if an avalanche occurs and someone in the party is caught).

During the Level 1 course, our student outcomes are:

  • Plan and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain.
  • Recognize avalanche terrain.
  • Describe a basic framework for making decisions in avalanche terrain.
  • Learn and apply effective companion rescue.


  • Students must be able to travel in avalanche terrain. There are no other prerequisites.



3 days (24 hours)

No courses currently scheduled.

The AIARE 2 course is a 3 day/24 hour program that provides backcountry leaders the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge and decision making skills. This course also includes the introductory and prerequisite components for the professional progression: the level 3 certificate (only offered directly through AIARE).

The AIARE 2 builds from the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the level one and adds to it the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation.

During the Level 2 course, our student outcomes are:

  • Advance understanding of avalanche terrain, particularly from the perspective of stability analysis.
  • Discuss how the snowpack develops and metamorphoses over time; and discuss the factors that contribute to spatial variability.
  • Learn standard observation guidelines and recording formats for factors that influence or indicate snow stability. SWAG MODULE.
  • Advance understanding of avalanche release and triggering mechanisms.
  • Introduce a snow stability analysis and forecasting framework.
  • Improve companion rescue skills including multiple and deep burials.


  • Students must have the ability to travel in avalanche terrain.
  • An AIARE Level 1 Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent training/experience is required.
  • A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is recommended before taking the Level 2 course.


AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course

1 days (8 hours)

No courses currently scheduled.

AIARE Avalanche Rescue is a one-day stand alone course that is intended to be retaken on a regular basis in order to keep abreast of best practices in rescue techniques and gear. New participants will learn the basics of companion rescue, while returning participants will expand their skill set with advanced topics and realistic scenario practice to help improve their skills.

Each participant will have the opportunity to receive professional coaching on their rescue skills, and will receive a rescue card acknowledging the completion date.

AIARE Avalanche Rescue is a prerequisite for the AIARE 2 and Pro 1 courses. AIARE recommends that all backcountry travelers keep their skills current by taking an Avalanche Rescue course and receiving a rescue card at least every other year.

At the end of the Avalanche Rescue course the student should be able to:

  • Describe what to do if they or a member of their party is caught in an avalanche.
  • Identify and be able to use gear necessary for avalanche rescue.
  • Set up a realistic scenario in order to practice an avalanche rescue response.
  • Improve their response skills and times during and after the course with feedback from instructors and peers.
  • Develop a plan for continuing practice.

All students will have the opportunity to get feedback from an instructor on their rescue skills and timed practice in a realistic scenario.

Students who have previously taken an AIARE 1 or an Avalanche Rescue Course will find value in having a professional help them set up realistic scenarios, practice skills in a realistic setting, receive feedback from an instructor, keep up with current best practices, and have an opportunity to practice advanced rescue skills.


  • Students must be able to travel in the snow, and bring appropriate equipment for traveling on snow to class. There are no other prerequisites.