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AIARE lvl 1


Original Post
Alex James · · Ballard, WA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 168

Maybe this is a self obvious question, but why are basically all the avalanche lvl 1 courses I've looked at require knowledge of how to ski? There's a couple that seem to grudgingly let snow shoers in.... It seems to me that you can very easily encounter avalanche terrain mountaineering where you won't have skis. There's a good amount of mountains you can reach with snow shoes or less and not skis.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294

Where are you located? I took my AIARE I with Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, CO earlier this year (Feb). I was on my snowshoes the whole time, nobody complained. The students were divided into groups based on their skill on skis/snowboards/snowshoes, so there was one group that was entirely on snowshoes.

luke smith · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 50

Not enough snowsho-ers? taking courses to justify either providing a course for them specifically or letting them catch up to the skiers/splitboarders. Which leads to my mostly personal opinion that with the advances in backcountry gear over the last decade that snowshoes are definitely obsolete. That doesn't mean that snowsho-ers that don't recreate in avalanche terrain or that they don't have uses. But why not ski or splitboard? It's considerably easier going down and up in most any situation.

BGardner · · Seattle, WA · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0

http://www.alpineinstitute.com/catalog/avalanche-training-aiare-1/

We have climbers on snowshoes all the time. Not a big deal at all.

Alex James · · Ballard, WA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 168
BGardner wrote:http://www.alpineinstitute.com/catalog/avalanche-training-aiare-1/ We have climbers on snowshoes all the time. Not a big deal at all.
Good to hear that! Thanks! That was one of the places I looked at. I was reading the line in the equipment list that said snow shoes were less desirable. In combination with a lot of other PNW courses wanting skis or split board only (Baker Mountain Guides, North Cascades Mountain Guides etc), I took that with a negative connotation. It seemed like IMG and you guys were the only ones.
BGardner · · Seattle, WA · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0

Can't speak to any of the other companies as I've never run Avy courses for them but it is fairly common for us to have a handful of snowshoers on a course.
When we do our tour day we break up into smaller groups based in part on mode of transport and abilities anyways so it really isn't a big deal.
While getting in some turns can be really fun its not the point of the course.
You don't have to spend much time looking at recent avalanche fatalities in WA to see that snowshoers and climbers need the course just as much as skiers.

jmeizis · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 225

There are a couple reasons. Mainly is that different modes of transportation are going to result in different speeds and energy levels. Backcountry skiers can generally move easier and faster than snowshoers. That speaks nothing to the difference in speed going downhill. So that makes it more difficult for the instructor to keep the group together. I'm trying to become an AIARE instructor and I would be happier having everyone in the same mode of transportation. Easier to fill a course if you take all comers though.

I also think generally skiers and boarders are looking for terrain that is more prone to avalanche. Snowshoers are actually trying to avoid it. That doesn't mean they aren't exposed to that hazard but it is more often incidental instead of the goal.

I used snowshoes for a long time. Eventually I came to realize is faster and more fun to use skis.

Andy Hansen · · Longmont, Colorado · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,318

It's a bummer the courses you've sought out are begrudgingly allowing snowshoers. The Colorado Mountain School advocates for all users, including snowshoers, to pursue an avalanche education on any mode of travel. The AIARE Level II is where you'd need to be proficient in either splitboarding, telemark or alpine touring to continue your education. A knowledgeable and experienced guide won't have much trouble managing a group split between snowshoers, AT skiers and splitboarders.

Lastly, to say that snowshoers are "trying to avoid" avalanche terrain and skiers/splitters are "riding in terrain more prone to avalanches" is nonsensical based on what the AIARE curriculum is trying to teach. Users in the backcountry, despite your mode of travel, will inevitably be traveling through, or near, avalanche terrain and identifying these features, or signs of instability, coupled with an intimate knowledge of the avalanche bulletin is what AIARE curriculum is about.

Good on you for wanting to continue your education!

Gavin W · · Surrey, BC · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 183

I took my AIARE 1 through American Alpine Institute, and with no backcountry skiing experience the instructors recommended that I use snowshoes. In the backcountry I was with a group of 6 other students, and 3 of us were on snowshoes. We ended up renting skis/splitboards for day 2 of the backcountry work simply because it was a great opportunity for us to learn, and we could move as quickly as novice AT skiers as we could snowshoeing. No reason that you couldn't do the entire course on snowshoes though.

jmeizis · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 225
Andy Hansen wrote:A knowledgeable and experienced guide won't have much trouble managing a group split between snowshoers, AT skiers and splitboarders. Lastly, to say that snowshoers are "trying to avoid" avalanche terrain and skiers/splitters are "riding in terrain more prone to avalanches" is nonsensical based on what the AIARE curriculum is trying to teach. Users in the backcountry, despite your mode of travel, will inevitably be traveling through, or near, avalanche terrain and identifying these features, or signs of instability, coupled with an intimate knowledge of the avalanche bulletin is what AIARE curriculum is about.
Not having much trouble doesn't make it desirable. Sure if you've got an even split and it's a large enough group to bring in a second instructor no problem. If you have a large group of skiers and a single snowshoer it's not as straightforward. A professional is going to make it work but that doesn't mean they want to spend their day working to manage the group instead of getting out in terrain and showing folks signs of instability, practicing companion rescue or things like that.

And sure, anyone traveling in the backcountry will be exposed to avalanche hazards but not many snowshoers are gunning to go up and down 30-45 degree chutes. Just like skiers and boarders aren't dawn patrolling for that sick 10 degree road bed. The education is valuable for anyone traveling in avalanche terrain but skiers/boarders, snowshoers, mountaineers, and sledders are each looking for different things when traveling in the mountains and a good program will take that into consideration. It's great to be inclusive but specializing has some benefits for the instructor and the students.
Andy Hansen · · Longmont, Colorado · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,318
jmeizis wrote: Not having much trouble doesn't make it desirable. Sure if you've got an even split and it's a large enough group to bring in a second instructor no problem. If you have a large group of skiers and a single snowshoer it's not as straightforward. A professional is going to make it work but that doesn't mean they want to spend their day working to manage the group instead of getting out in terrain and showing folks signs of instability, practicing companion rescue or things like that. And sure, anyone traveling in the backcountry will be exposed to avalanche hazards but not many snowshoers are gunning to go up and down 30-45 degree chutes. Just like skiers and boarders aren't dawn patrolling for that sick 10 degree road bed. The education is valuable for anyone traveling in avalanche terrain but skiers/boarders, snowshoers, mountaineers, and sledders are each looking for different things when traveling in the mountains and a good program will take that into consideration. It's great to be inclusive but specializing has some benefits for the instructor and the students.
We understand where each other are coming from then. And of course it's not the ideal situation for there to be snowwhoers, skiers and splitboarders in the same group but realistically a Level I is more about Level I curriculum and less about skiing/riding. So, desirable or not, snowshoers should feel welcome as users of the backcountry at any Level I provider's course. And specialization is making it's way to AIARE with the Pro/Rec. split that will be taking place next season. This will be a great way for recreationalists (skiers and snowshoers alike) to learn in an environment designed to meet their expectations and have less of an emphasis on their mode of travel. Good luck with the ITC if you haven't already completed it!
Todd Curtis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 0

I took the lvl 1 with the Alpine Institute earlier this month on snowshoes and highly recommend it. I used snowshoes instead of my skis because it was easier to fly in with then the extra baggage charge each way for skis, the snowshoes fit in my duffel.
For the lvl 1 course I and the other person on snowshoes were able to get around easily and in some instances more efficiently than those on skis. That said we did travel slightly shorter distances as the snowfall and avy risk actually kept us to a more limited range of terrain.
I highly recommend the course, Mt Baker is a great place to learn.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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