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 six-week course runs annually. It covers avalanche awareness, companion rescue, safe winter travel techniques, and winter camping. The class includes a meet & greet, five evening lectures in Seattle (on Tuesdays with an option to join remotely); and four day tours on the weekends, all within a 2.5 hour drive from downtown Seattle.
Applications for 2024 Season Are Open!
***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 $475, which does not include the $40 cost of an annual 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. There will be four Access Scholarships available to help aid with the cost of the class, which you'll have the ability to self-select for on the application.
The class is open to alpine touring (AT or "randonee") skiers, and splitboarders 18 years and older. The class size will be 16 students and the number of splitboarders we can accept may be limited by the number of volunteering instructors that splitboard for a given year. Most of our instructors are volunteers who are experienced backcountry travelers and members of the WAC. We also bring in industry professionals to lecture on avalanche safety, meteorology, and tour planning.
Requisite Downhill Ability
Skiers & snowboarders should be 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. Feel free to contact the co-chairs at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions about the class.
Our schedule comprises one intro meeting, 5 weeknight lectures, and 4 weekend day tours. 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 will not be allowed to participate in the weekend tours.
Ski tours for weekends 2, 3 and 4 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 as we have used this option several times.
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.