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, companion rescue, safe winter travel techniques, and winter camping. The class includes five evening lectures in Seattle and four weekends in the mountains of Washington.

Note for the 2020-2021 Season

After much deliberation between the class Co-Chairs and the WAC board we have come to a decision that we will NOT hold the Backcountry Class for the 2020-2021 winter season as we have in years past due to concerns around COVID19. In lieu of accepting students to an in person curriculum we plan to hold distance learning for the community on a variety of topics that will be of interest to those wishing to begin or continue their winter backcountry education.

Please stay tuned for more information.

The Below information from last year's class is being left up for reference.

General Info

All incoming students are required to have taken an AIARE Level 1, or a 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, providing students an opportunity to apply their avalanche knowledge during tour planning and while out in the backcountry. Applicants may fulfill their AIARE 1 or equivalent requirement this winter, provided they are able to complete the course before the WAC BC class begins (Jan 22nd).

The cost of the WAC Backcountry Travel Class is $280, which does not include the cost of the WAC membership fee. Participants are responsible for bringing all their own equipment. Please review the required gear list before applying for the class. Local rentals are available, but can be expensive and may need to be reserve well in advance of the class; see 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 tour group will consist of 3-6 students and two instructors all using the same mode of travel. 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, meteorology, and tour planning.

Requisite downhill ability

Skiers & snowboarders should be at least able to descend black runs confidently in most conditions. Field trip weekends will be in the backcountry of the Cascades, where challenging snow conditions, trees, and other obstacles can present serious challenges. Those who are comfortable in challenging conditions will find this class more enjoyable, but we will do our best to accommodate various abilities.

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.


Our schedule comprises one intro meeting, 5 weeknight lectures, and 4 weekends. Information about course dates, locations, and topics may be found on the Course Outline page. Prospective students must be able to attend all lectures and weekend events. Because we cover fundamental safety skills in the first week, a student who misses the first lecture or first weekend for any reason will not be allowed to participate in the weekend tours.

Ski tours for weekends 2 and 3 are day trips. Students must be available both Saturday and Sunday as the decision on which day we go will depend on weather and snow conditions, and will be determined late in the preceding week. We include one backup weekend in our schedule in case previous weekends are cancelled due to unsafe snow conditions. Please keep this weekend available; we have used the backup weekend more often than not!

Membership Requirement

All students must be WAC members to take this course. If you are new to the WAC, you may wait until you have been accepted to become a member.