With an increase in interest in backcountry skiing we have seen tremendous growth in the number of people taking avalanche courses. Last winter 156 people attended our AIARE Level 1 and AIARE Level 2 courses. Each season we review the feedback from previous years and update the program anywhere that we feel we can make improvements. In winter 2013-14 we have decreased the total classroom time and increased the total field time as we concluded that this is where student's gain the most actual skill when it comes to making solid decisions when out touring.
|Students on Northwest Mountain School AIARE Level 1 Course near Stevens Pass, WA|
We have also recently acquired a fleet of Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 ABS packs that we will be offering as demo units to participants on our avalanche courses and as rental packs on our Europe ski programs. Ortovox is once again on board as one of our major sponsors and will once again be providing the excellent S1+ beacons for use on our courses.
|Classroom space at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort|
Most of our most veteran staff are returning from last winter and we are happy to have a deeply seasoned crew. Instructors include a mix of IFMGA Guides, Washington Department of Transportation Avalanche Technicians, and Ski Patrollers. In the past few years we have been running weekly courses throughout the season giving these folks the opportunity to really dial in their presentations and field sessions. Each also works in the field between courses either managing avalanche risks along various mountain passes in Washington, at local ski areas, and while conducting guided tours in the backcountry in Washington and Europe. This ensures that each instructor is not only immersed in the actual AIARE curriculum, but also up to date on the current situation in the field.
|Pre-trip meeting during touring portion of AIARE Level 1 Course|
We raised prices slightly to reflect higher fees being charged by AIARE for each student that goes through the course. We were happy to see AIARE do this as they have really done a fantastic job of keeping the curriculum fresh and up to date and they provide a very consistent and functional framework for teaching these courses.
|Surface hoar. Commonly implicated weak layer when buried in snowpack|
Many of the early season courses fill very quickly. If interested in a particular date don't wait too long to secure your space as the total number of participants for each course is limited to provide the best possible experience. In addition to the courses listed here we also organize custom programs for government organizations, search and rescue groups, and members of the general public that simply want a certain date with a certain group of people. Contact the office at 509-548-5823 or send an e-mail for details.
|The real point of dialing in your avalanche skills, great times in the backcountry.|
AIARE Level 1 Course Details:
This is a 3-day course with 24 hours of classroom and field work. Historically there has been a very wide variety of Level 1 courses and AIARE stepped into this chaotic situation and radically beefed up the required content of the AIARE Level 1 program. We have had plenty of students comment that they found their AIARE Level 1 to be more advanced and more detailed that other non-AIARE courses marketed as a level 2 course. For the majority of backcountry skiers this may be the only avalanche course that they ever take. The course focuses very carefully on the decision making process and encourages backcountry users to very carefully follow the terrain and travel recommendations published in the local avalanche report. This is a very appropriate course for new backcountry travelers as well as those with deep local experience with perhaps less formal training. This is a great opportunity to get up to speed on the current language, techniques, pre-trip planning, and field based observations that lead to good decision making when out in the mountains. If it has been a long time since you have taken an AIARE Level 1, it would not be unreasonable to retake the level 1.
Winter 2013-14 AIARE Level 1 Dates:
- December 6-8, 2013
- December 13-15, 2013
- December 27-29, 2013
- January 3-5, 2014
- January 18-20, 2014
- January 31 - February 2, 2014
- February 15-17, 2014
- February 28 - March 2, 2014
- March 7-9, 2014
- Custom Dates Available Dec-April
AIARE Level 2 Course Details:
This is a professional level course and is used to train ski patrollers, mountain guides, and frequent backcountry travelers that want to improve their decision making skills and avalanche knowledge. This course also includes the introductory and prerequisite components for progression to AIARE level 3 programs. Participants are expected to be familiar with the material covered in the AIARE level 1 course. Leavenworth provides the ideal base for this course as we are within 45 minutes of a very wide variety of snowpacks. During the course you will visit Stevens Pass, Icicle Creek Canyon, Blewett Pass, and at least one other site allowing you to see how the snowpack changes radically as you move east and west of the Cascade Crest and move to different aspects and elevations. Most days begin and end in the classroom with the majority of the day spent in the field making observations, training, and testing the hypothesis formed by looking at the avalanche forecast, current weather and snow pack data, and various snow pack exchange groups. If taking this course you need to be able to move efficiently in the backcountry as each day involves significant touring to get into various slopes that we are interested in.
Winter 2013-14 AIARE Level 2 Dates:
- Jan. 9-12, 2014
- Feb. 6-9, 2014
- Custom Dates Available
AIARE Level 1 Refresher Course Details:
If you do not work with the materials covered in the AIARE Level 1 course it is very common for this skill set to become rusty. For many the best solution is to retake the Level 1 course, but for others you may just want to to refresh your understanding of the level 1 course. Over the years we have refined our Level 1 refresher course and come to realize that the most effective way to have you reintegrate your existing knowledge and be exposed to new information that has been developed since your level 1 course is to sit in on the tour planning session of day 2 of our regular course and then participate in the field day the following day. This allows you to review the forecast, come up with a good route plan and alternate options, and then execute this plan on Day 2. During the field day you will also be able to practice a full rescue scenario and get direct feedback from your course instructors. Space on refresher courses is limited to a small portion of the class to maintain balance for the other participants.
Winter 2013-14 AIARE Level 1 Refresher Dates:
- December 9, 2012
- January 13, 2013
- February 3, 2013
- March 3, 2013
- Custom Dates Available
For more information about any of our avalanche courses feel free to call the office directly at 509-548-5823 or stop by our office at 940 US highway 2, unit F in downtown Leavenworth, WA next to the US Post Office.
About the Northwest Mountain School: We are based in Leavenworth, WA, have been in business since 1994, and are owned and operated by IFMGA guides John & Olivia Race. We routinely guide clients on extended ski tours such as the Haute Route Ski Tour in Europe, and have previously guided 30 expeditions to Denali, 8 expeditions to 8000 meter peaks, and other climbs worldwide in a combined 38 years of guiding.