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Newman55

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course Recommendations PLZ

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I need to gain a little avalanche safety knowledge.

 

I'm doing some research on AIARE level 1 courses, hoping to take one this spring.

 

Just looking for recommendations here.

 

Did you have a good or bad experience with one course/service or another?

Which organizations have the best reputation?

Which is the best value?

 

Thanks everyone!

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AIARE Level I is invaluable - one of the best courses to take. I did mine in VT so I can't speak to who does it here. You probably can't go wrong though.

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Everet Mountaineers have a great course, give it a try. I have taken level 1 three times with different groups, they were the best.

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AAI in Bellingham has a great reputation and they offer courses throughout the winter. I took my first avy course ~14 years ago and took the AIARE 1 course with the Everett Mountaineers last year and was very happy with the course. I had a good base of understanding going into it but was carpooling with a friend who had never taken an avy course so we had good discussion on how she felt about the course. The only downside to the Everett Mountaineers is that the course if only taught once a year and it doesn't fit your spring plan.

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Definitely recommend using a guide service over one of the clubs in the area. If you aren't a club member the cost is pretty much the same. If you are a club member there's a slim savings but you pay for it with a dragged out course schedule. I've also found guides to be a lot better at teaching as they do multiple courses each year rather than one or two. Plus they don't get off track as much telling war stories.

 

If you have the discipline you could also acquire your safety gear and Tremper's book and pretty much self teach a lot of the information with practice. It's acquiring the skills and experience that counts not necessarily some piece of paper.

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I don't disagree that the guide outfits have repetitive experience but one of the things that the clubs have is an interest in the students actually learning. At some point the club instructors and the club students will probably be real partners together and will depend on one another where that relationship will likely not happen with the guide.

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As an AIARE Instructor, I have to say that the last statement is entirely untrue and offensive. When teaching avalanche courses all we are concerned about is the student's learning and safety.

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I don't disagree that the guide outfits have repetitive experience but one of the things that the clubs have is an interest in the students actually learning. At some point the club instructors and the club students will probably be real partners together and will depend on one another where that relationship will likely not happen with the guide.

 

This is ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE.

 

AIARE courses are courses with a set curriculum and are not "guided trips." Many students who take these courses take them with partners or meet potential partners at the course.

 

Guides who teach these courses are extremely concerned about the long term safety and well-being of the students in the course. The last thing that a guide would ever want to hear is that someone who took one of his or her courses was killed in an avalanche.

 

The majority of the students that we see in avalanche courses are local climbers and skiers. Many of them will never participate in a guided trip, which makes the instructors even more paranoid about preparing the students effectively for the field.

 

Guides who are avalanche instructors take their position extremely seriously...

 

Jason

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having clients die anywhere is bad for business.

 

But seriously, guides don't do it for the money just like teachers don't teach for the money. They do it (especially if they have been guiding for more than 5 years) cause they care about people.

 

 

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Sorry guys, I have lots of respect for guides and didn't mean to offend anyone. I think you have misunderstood me though. My experience is that the climbing clubs teach from the same established curriculum and that they are teaching friends who they care about and see regularly. I did not intend to take anything away from the education provided by professional mountain guides.

 

I agree that guides care very much about their clients and developing their abilities and I also agree that death would be bad for business and that guiding is not a job for someone without a passion for the mountains. I also don't think it's fair to short change the climbing clubs.

Edited by Jason4

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a point has been made to me that at least one major club often relies on volunteers as field "guides"/aids/assistants even if a professional instructor is leading the course, whereas when taking the course from this professional instructor the aids provided are other guides, climbing rangers, or avalanche professionals. at least in one instance this is what i was told when comparing between taking a course with an organization and through a guide/instructor directly. whether this matters to you or not it is a point that was clarified for me.

 

in some respects i do not want a 'friend' teaching because while they can know me better that knowledge also gives the potential for 'blindspots'. a professional with thousands of hours of professional instruction behind them probably has less bias? not exactly the same, but, this is why some people pay therapists to work on big problems and not just 'talk with a friend'.

 

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I can't speak for all of the clubs in the area but when I took the course through the mountaineers the two lead instructors were very highly qualified and under them there were 7 volunteers who were all AIARE instructor certified. Each of the instructor certified volunteers were responsible for a group of up to 7 students and had 2 assistants. The assistants primarily helped demonstrate techniques in the field and were expected to walk somebody out if they had to leave for some reason without having to take the entire class out.

 

The low level assistants were not instructors.

 

Edited by Jason4

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So, not to put words in Jason's mouth, but my takeaway was that he hypothesized that club avie instructor-members are more optimal instructors than guide service avie instructors because a club member will have a greater investment in insuring positive student outcomes. He supposed this was because club students and instructors were more likely to become ski partners afterwards than guide service students and instructors.

 

While I agree with part of his reasoning, I think his hypothesis is false. My example is my favorite ski partner, the Missus. Just because I am heavily emotional invested in her learning avalanche awareness, that emotional investment does not mean that I'll more effectively teach her that information then to someone in one of my avalanche courses.

 

Also, afterwards club instructors and students will not suddenly be planning trips together as equals: a more likely and probably scenario is that the instructor becomes the more experienced partner, who's judgement is deferred to more often.

 

Obviously I'm biased, but I believe that I provide a superior service because of practice - I teach a lot of avalanche courses and apply those skills almost daily (starting tomorrow) throughout the winter.

 

Jason's idea was an interesting one for discussion - its too bad he didn't choose his words more carefully - but I think I've done a decent job explaining why I don't think its correct.

 

Full disclosure: I'm a guide and avalanche instructor at Pro Guiding Service, North Bend.

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I don't disagree that the guide outfits have repetitive experience but one of the things that the clubs have is an interest in the students actually learning. At some point the club instructors and the club students will probably be real partners together and will depend on one another where that relationship will likely not happen with the guide.

 

This is ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE.

 

AIARE courses are courses with a set curriculum and are not "guided trips." Many students who take these courses take them with partners or meet potential partners at the course.

 

Guides who teach these courses are extremely concerned about the long term safety and well-being of the students in the course. The last thing that a guide would ever want to hear is that someone who took one of his or her courses was killed in an avalanche.

 

The majority of the students that we see in avalanche courses are local climbers and skiers. Many of them will never participate in a guided trip, which makes the instructors even more paranoid about preparing the students effectively for the field.

 

Guides who are avalanche instructors take their position extremely seriously...

 

Jason

 

Jason-

Please tell me what part of what I said was untrue or disagreed with any of what you posted "in argument". I think you and I have talked in person on the same subject and while I can see very large advantages of going through a guide service for avalanche education you have not been able to give them to me yourself. As you said, all AIARE courses are taught from a set curriculum. As I said to Kurt, I'm sorry that worded it poorly and if you thought that I implied more than I said then you read into it further than I intended.

 

Thanks Chris, you captured my intentions better than I did. It wasn't the quality of education that I intended to highlight but the motivation of the unpaid volunteers in the climbing clubs. This has become a more polar conversation than I intended. Also, thank you for the disclosure and for what it's worth I'll send people your way if I have the opportunity.

 

Sorry to sidetrack the conversation, in regards to the OP some of your options in the region in no particular order are:

Pro Guiding Service, North Bend, ask for Chris

Everett Mountaineers (probably won't fit your schedule)

AAI, great company, more expensive than EM, ask for Kurt

Mt Baker Ski Area, it wasn't an accredited AIARE course last year but it was very similar, that may have changed this year

Several other guiding services in the Seattle area that I'm not familiar with.

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No worries Jason! Just be more careful in the future. What Jason and Kurt did was respond with an understandable vehemence. You did say, "one of the things that the clubs have is an interest in the students actually learning." That is a polarizing statement. And it is untrue: as a guide I'm very interested in making sure my students learn - I rely significantly on return business and word-of-mouth recommendations, which only happens when I'm successful in presenting the material, and my students are successful in understanding it. It takes more than motivation - no matter how earnest and well-intentioned - to make for a competent, qualified, and effective instructor.

 

And for Newman and anyone else considering an avalanche course, not all AIARE courses are the same. The American Avalanche Association provides "recommended guidelines" for avalanche courses that AIARE adheres to. In fact, AIARE instructors are required to be members of the AAA. But the curriculum provided by AIARE also allows for some variation so that instructors can use local photos, terrain maps, and case studies. There is also quite a bit of flexibility in how some of this information is presented. Picking the best way to present the material, and making it relevant and understandable to the students, is what sets great instructors apart.

Edited by chris

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A quick +1 for AAI. . They have a well-deserved reputation for high quality instruction, and they also go out of their way to support the NW outdoor community. That should count for something.

 

But don't spend too much time deciding. There are a lot of places to get good, AAIRE level 1 Avy instruction, and most people are fans of whoever they learned from. I don't know anyone who can claim to have tried all the various offerings in order to evaluate "the best."

 

The main thing is to get signed up for an AAIRE level 1 course that works for your schedule and location ASAP, since they fill up quickly, or at least the ones on convenient three-day weekends near Seattle do. Then you and your partner can get the benefits of your increased avvy awareness this season.

 

Almost all the places mentioned on this thread are offering their free or donation-based "intro" workshops right about now. It's generally just a slideshow, but it'll give you a chance to learn how much you don't know, and get a taste of what you'd learn in a full level 1 course.

 

AAI is doing a couple of events to benefit NWAC this month in Bellingham and Everett. The Mountaineers will let you attend their intro event as a guest member. Gary Brillill be at Feathered Friends and Marmot next week, and there is also the David Pettigrew Foundation, which is not a comprehensive course, so no substitute for AAIRE level 1, but their "intro/workshops" are outside, and "pay what you can," so a good supplement, if you can snag a spot. Downside to them is they have a 100% skiing focus. That's in keeping with their mission but might not be what you want.

 

Hope this is helpful.

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Sorry about jumping on you... I did have a bit of a visceral response to the idea that clubs have an interest in people actually learning, with the implication that guides don't an interest in that.

 

I probably should have pointed this out in my original response...

 

Jason

 

 

Edited by Jason_Martin

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Thanks for understanding my intentions and sorry to imply anything negative about guides, the ones that I know and have met are great guys.

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Took it through AAI about this time last year. Top notch instruction, had a good time, and even learned a few things. Kurt was one of my instructors and did an excellent job.

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Thanks everyone for the feedback! Lots of good information on this thread.

 

At this time, I'm pretty much set on AAI for a number of reasons;

 

1.) lots of positive recommendations from the comments above.

2.) Class takes place in Leavenworth, where I have a cabin (free lodging) and do most of my recreating (basing on the assumption that conditions will be most similar to those I will encounter in my back-country adventures)

3.) I have access to a discount as a SAR volunteer.

4.) I can participate on snowshoes since I don't have skis.

 

Cheers!

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