Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain


What will I learn on this course?

Welcome! You are here because you have signed up for an AIARE avalanche course. Or perhaps you have stumbled upon us after googling “avalanche education.” Whatever brought you here, we are united by a love of the mountains and a desire to play among them in the winter. By whatever means you travel in the mountains, being aware of the potential avalanche hazards where you want to go and how to create a plan to manage those hazards, is the key to being able to continue playing in the mountains for a whole lifetime.

Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain

The AIARE program Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain teaches you how to manage your risk and learn from your experiences in the backcountry.

The program consists of three courses. The AIARE 1 introduces you to a repeatable risk management process, The AIARE Risk Management Framework or The AIARE Framework for short. In this course you learn how to use a process to both manage your risk and learn from your experiences. The keys to this process are identifying potential avalanche hazards where you intend to go, creating a plan to manage that hazard, maintaining awareness of what is going on around you while you are out, and then reflecting on your experience when you get back.

The Avalanche Rescue Course targets avalanche rescue skills by providing you the tools for regular perfect practice so you can keep these “in case of an emergency” skills sharp.

The AIARE 2 course is designed to help you build on your experience using The AIARE Framework and provide you with tools to target undeveloped skills and uncertainty so you can continue to build competence as a backcountry traveler.

Duncan Lee photo

Your AIARE 1 Course

This season, AIARE 1 courses will all look a little different depending on where they are being offered. Self-paced online learning and study through this website, video or classroom sessions with an instructor, and Facebook groups and other online forums are all tools that may be employed to ensure you have the tools and information you need to use The AIARE Framework to manage your risk and learn from your experiences in the backcountry.

All AIARE courses are united by a field component. AIARE 1 and 2 courses spend at least two days in the field applying the tools you learn in the classroom (virtually or in-person) or through self-paced online learning. One-day rescue courses typically spend the whole day in the field practicing rescue skills.

Regardless of the exact mode of your course, you can expect AIARE Online Learning to provide you with an introduction to AIARE's avalanche education model. Use this website as a tool to prepare for your course and as a reference to keep your skills sharp.

By the end of your AIARE 1 course, you will be able to:

  • Use a routine to foster TEAMWORK

  • PREPARE for backcountry travel by tracking conditions and researching trip options

  • Create a PLAN to travel in avalanche terrain

  • Use RIDE SAFELY checklists to manage risk as a group in avalanche terrain

  • DEBRIEF the day reflect on decisions and intentionally gain experience

  • Participate in an avalanche rescue response

  • Develop a plan for continuing education

This online course will give you the information you need to:

  • Describe the routines of a risk management process you can use in the backcountry

  • Locate your local avalanche forecast and find out the danger rating and avalanche problem for the day.

  • Follow weather and avalanche conditions leading up to your course.

  • Begin identifying avalanche terrain in maps and photos.

  • Describe the basic steps of performing avalanche rescue.

John Clausen photo

Avalanche education is a process

Traveling in the backcountry is committing to a lifelong apprenticeship in the mountains. By taking this course, you are taking the first step to develop the skills to safely gain experience and manage your risk. But a single course or educational experience is never going to immediately give you the skills needed to tackle the most ambitious outing on your bucket list. This is why The AIARE Framework is both a risk management process and a process to learn from your experiences. After your course, you should feel confident in using the process to choose an outing that matches your skills at understanding and managing the conditions, your group, and the terrain. Each experience is an opportunity to build your skills and understanding so you have the ability to choose more and more objectives.