For most backcountry skiers, taking AIARE level 1 is an obvious choice.
As a beginning backcountry skier, you want to solidify knowledge that you’ve gleaned from ski partners and personal experience to make better informed decision in the backcountry. You sign up for AIARE Level 1. The reward is great. You have more knowledge and more confidence to speak up about decision making in avalanche terrain with your ski partners. But you know there is still a LOT more to learn.
What about taking a Level 2 course? When should I take it? Is it just for professional ski patrollers and forecasters? Is it too technical and will go over my head? Do I have enough experience skiing the backcountry yet? Why do most people that sign up for a Level 2 decide to take it?
When? The Level 2 course is recommended after at least one season of backcountry skiing after your Level 1 course. By that time have recorded observations in your blue book, skied terrain in various conditions, and read many observations on your local avalanche information website. You’ve put into practice the skills from your Level 1 course: planning, building your team, observing avalanches, snow and weather, choosing terrain based on conditions, using travel techniques to further reduce your risk, digging pits and practicing companion rescue. Even if you don’t meet every criteria perfectly, go ahead and sign up for your Level 2.
Why? You want to know more. AIARE Level 1 can be a whirlwind of information. You received tools and information, and your education continues each day you ski or review your info. As you make observations and decisions based on the framework from Level 1, you might often be wondering “why this?” or “what if that?” The limited scope of Level 1 means that we have to simplify or skip some topics. Level 2 is a time to revisit those topics and focus on a depth of understanding.
Is it just for professionals? No. The AIARE curriculum is increasingly focused on making the Level 2 class the next step for backcountry recreationalists as well as professionals. Soon they will split into two different tracks. A Backcountry Babes AIARE Level 2 is tailored to the students in the class, whether you are an avid backcountry skier looking to level up or an aspiring professional. Because we keep our class sizes small, you get individualized instruction that matches your interests.
Do I have enough experience? What if I’m not ready? Review your course materials from Level 1. Does it seem familiar or foreign? If it’s more of the latter, we recommend recommitting to getting out and making observations, using your blue book, digging pits and reading up. Two books we recommend in advance of the Level 2 are The Avalanche Handbook and SWAG (Snow, Weather and Avalanches). If you want to brush up on Level 1 concepts our Intermediate Backcountry Tour is a mentored day of skiing with other women who have taken AIARE Level 1 already. You can also rally friends from AIARE Level 1 and go out an do your own practice session. If you have questions about your readiness for the Level 2, give us a call and we’ll talk with you about it.
Why? What can you expect to get out of this course? The backcountry community relies on all of us to be well informed to maximize the safety of this outdoor pursuit. We owe it to the people we ski with, the larger community, and ourselves to continue leanrning. Our AIARE level 2 course helps you prepare to take on a leadership role in recreational or professional backcountry teams. You can expect to advance your understanding of avalanche terrain, snow stability, mechanisms of avalanche triggers and releases, discuss snowpack changes over time, learn guidelines for snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording, learn a framework for snow stability analysis and forecasting, and improve companion rescue skills. You can use this knowledge to give back to the larger community.