What is Avalanche slEducation?

and who is AIARE?

Traditional recreational avalanche education has typically focused on skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers as the primary users of avalanche country. Yet, the way these users interact with avalanche country draws a stark difference than that of motorized users.

For example on any typical day the average skier or snowboarder will likely only “tour” several miles and one or two drainages. Where as those equipped with motorized means will easily quadruple that on the average day. Thus the motorized user may experience greater levels of exposure to avalanche hazard throughout the day and needs to posses a more global mindset about the hazard. This is just one example. While non-mechanized and mechanized users will indeed share many of the same avalanche safety principles, mechanized users will need to be able to exercise a very important and uniquely different sub-set of considerations.

Avalanche Sleducation is thus, avalanche education that is curated specifcally for the motorized user.

Where to start?

The American Avalanche Association (A3), which is responsible for setting guidelines for recreational and professional avalanche courses in the United States…

recommends that all winter backcountry users begin their training with an optional Avalanche Awareness course, then proceed to Level 1, and Avalanche Rescue.

– American Avalanche Association
Who is AIARE?

The seed for AIARE was planted during a chance meeting between mountain guides in the California Sierra in 1992. Guides at this meeting discussed the varying curriculum and quality among the avalanche education providers and agree a unified approach to avalanche education was needed. At the time, the American Avalanche Association (A3) had published guidelines for what recreational avalanche curriculum should cover, but there was no nationally recognized curriculum. Seven years, later thanks to the efforts of Swiss Guide Jean Paviard, Canadian Guide Karl Klassen, and American Guide Tom Murphy the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) was born in Crested Butte Colorado.

From the start, AIARE integrated national and international standards and began to incorporate a decision-makers’ approach to risk management in avalanche education. AIARE has continued to consult the most talented minds of the avalanche science & practitioner world to develop new curriculum and supplementary materials, so that the products developed and distributed are based on a wide variety of experience, background, and knowledge. Due to this, AIARE has some of the highest and most stringent standards for becoming a qualified Instructor.

What about curriculum for motorized users?

According to AIARE’s Motorized Program Manager, Jeff Hambelton, until recently…

Avalanche education designed for wintertime backcountry enthusiasts who don’t ski or snowboard has been as elusive as a stable February snowpack in Colorado: not impossible, but far from common.

In 2016 at the West Yellowstone Curriculum Development Workshop, AIARE made a pointed decision to develop and deliver training targeted for recreational snowmobilers. It’s now the nucleus of AIARE motorized course providers and AIARE-qualified instructors whose primary mode of mountain travel is on a snowmachine. With the addition of Moto Mountain School and others, AIARE is now able to provide avalanche education to more backcountry travelers than any other single avalanche education organization in the United States.

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