About the class

Our Mission

Our instructors are a small community of volunteers who provide a valuable class for skiers and snowboarders who are making the
transition from the resort to backcountry. Students learn to 
safely travel into, through, and out of the backcountry under their own power. Most of our students enjoy the WAC community and return in following seasons to help instruct the class.

This two-month course runs annually. It covers avalanche awareness, safe winter travel techniques, and winter camping. The class includes five evening lectures in Seattle and four weekends in
the mountains of Washington.

New for the 2019 class:   All incoming students are required to have taken an AIARE Level 1, or formally recognized introductory avalanche course such as AST Level 1 or ISTA Level 1, within the last 5 years. The WAC backcountry class will reinforce and build on this foundation, giving students an opportunity to apply their avalanche knowledge when planning a tour and while in the backcountry.

A number of AIARE 1 courses are offered from November through January.   BC class applicants who have not taken AIARE 1 within the last five years must complete an AIARE 1 course before class begins on January 22nd.

Information about the AIARE 1 course, including a list of providers, can be found here.

2019 Class


Please check back in October for updated information about the 2019 class, including the application form and deadline.

General Info

The cost of the course is $200, which does not include the cost of the WAC membership fee. Participants are responsible for bringing all of their own equipment.  Please look at the list of required gear before applying for the class.  Local rentals are available, but you may need to reserve well in advance of the class.   Also note that some of this equipment can be fairly expensive to rent.  For example, see the rates on the Gear Rentals page.

The class is open to alpine touring (AT or "randonee") skiers, and splitboarders 18 years and older. The class size will be 12-16 students. When we begin touring, each touring group will consist of 3-6 students who are using the same travel mode and two instructors.  For this reason, if we do not receive at least 3 splitboard applications, as occasionally happens, we will not accept splitboarders into the class.  

Most of our instructors are volunteers who are members of the WAC.   We bring in professionals to lecture on avalanche safety.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. 

Requisite downhill ability

Skiers & snowboarders should be at least of strong intermediate ability. This means the ability to descend black runs in most conditions. Skiers and snowboarders in this class will be skiing in the backcountry in the Cascades in the winter, where challenging snow conditions, trees, and other obstacles can present serious challenges. We'll do our best to accommodate skiers of various abilities, but those who are more comfortable in challenging conditions will probably find this class more enjoyable. 

We may ask that you join us for an in-bounds ski day before the class starts if you (or we) are not confident that you'll enjoy the class.  If this is the case, we'll contact you after reviewing your application.

Feel free to contact the co-chairs at wac-bc-chairs@googlegroups.com if you have questions about the class. 

2018 Schedule
Please check back in October for information about the 2019 class.

Our schedule comprises one intro meeting, 5 weeknight lectures, and 4 weekends.  Please note that because each session builds upon the previous one, we require applicants to attend all lectures and weekends.  For more details on the course schedule and course material, see the schedule and syllabus.

The ski tours on weekends two and three are day trips, however students must keep both Saturday and Sunday free because the choice of day will depend on weather and snow conditions.  The decision on which day we go will be made late in the preceding week.   We include one backup weekend in our schedule in case previous weekends are cancelled because of unsafe snow conditions.  Please keep this weekend available; we have used the backup weekend more often than not!

Because we cover fundamental safety skills in the first weeks, under no circumstances can we allow students who miss the first two lectures or the first field trip to participate in following weekends.

Membership Requirement

You must be a member of the WAC to take this class.  If you are new to the WAC, you may wait to hear if you are accepted before joining.