Hey, Dara. For climbing only, I would definitely take the self-rescue class first. The avalanche courses are mostly geared for skiers, though it's a good thing to learn about avy awareness. Climbers could generally manage avalanche risk by avoiding avy-prone terrain altogether. That being said, I'd recommend Markus Beck's courses from Alpine World Ascents - I think he offers just one-day "Avalanche Safety" courses that would work for you. See you in Ouray this winter?
I took the CAA level 1 course a few years ago. I took the class after telling a very experienced backcountry skier maybe we should hit the next run over. I hear whooping and look at the snowpack. The party skinning up behind us when down that chute we passed on and got knocked down by a slide. Didn't sound bad but a girl in the group was shook to say the least. I liked the three day course due to the fact there's two days spent in the field. I also would take the course in the area you plan to ski. I spend a month in the winter in Whistler BC so I took the course there. I got some interesting local knowledge of the snowpack and good spots to hit. I think if you're climbing out west in us or canada it's good to know how to read an avy report. Some climbs are big terrain traps and snow could release from above. I have a hard enough staying on routes without getting knocked off by an avalanche!
Self rescue is always good to know. I suck at rock climbing being 270 lbs but I always find someone is more willing to pick up my slack leading or finding a partner if I explain to them I'm confident escaping a belay, jugging and performing a rescue rappel. In the winter I would imagine knowing or not knowing self rescue could be life or death on long backcountry multi pitch route.
I'm going to be leading more this winter, so it's probably a good time to either take an avalanche awareness class or self-rescue. Got any recommendations for either? I may not have time or $$ for both this year, so what would be the best choice? Can I get a good amount of avalanche awareness in a 1-day class or do I need the full 3-day AAIRE course?
Leading on ice? Skip the classes, buy a hang board and use it.
Last year there were courses at the ADK Mountainfest in Keene. If you might be heading up there already, could be good use of a few days. Don't know the dates for this year yet.
[Hi Dara! Shoulder gets worked on in a few weeks, I should be close to 100% next Spring - hope we can connect :) I'll be doing some skiing this winter, maybe I'll be well enough by early January. Stay safe.]