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Women of all ability levels join our Backcountry Babes course. Many people wonder which course is best for them. This blog post outlines the general backcountry skills progression to help you figure out which is the best course for you. Of course, we are always open to hearing from you personally and we can recommend which courses might best fit your goals, current skills and experience level. Call us at 415-729-5046 or email [email protected]

As you think about what course is best for you, keep in mind the confidence gap. This is the tendency that many people have to underestimate their current skills and abilities. We want you to be in a course that is appropriate, not too basic and not over your head. If you meet much of the criteria, then go for it! Don’t worry if you don’t have every little thing before you come to class.  That’s the point of Backcountry Babes– to learn those things. This overview is meant to be informative, encouraging and inclusive.  Let’s find the best course for your to start with!


silverton powder steep terrain lift accessed backcountry women ski groups

Heeding the call of the backcountry. Enjoying a Powder Day at Silverton Mountain, CO


Am I a good candidate for our Beginner Backcountry Ski Tour?

Yes! If you’re backcountry skiing for the first time or the 5th, here’s what to expect:

What type of gear do you need?

The most popular type of gear people use is the Alpine Touring Set up (aka the AT set-up.  Basically that means downhill skis with touring bindings and climbing skins.)  A splitboard, snowshoes & snowboard or telemark skis are also appropriate for the Beginner Backcountry Ski Tour.  Anyone traveling in the backcountry needs to have a beacon (aka avalanche transceiver), shovel and probe. Backcountry Babes can loan you a shovel or probe, but not a beacon. Email us for a G3 shovel and probe 🙂 for class or where to rent/buy a beacon.   [email protected]

Do you know how to use the gear?

The beginner backcountry ski tour is great for learning how to use your gear.  Whether this is your first, second, third, forth or 5th time out, you will learn a lot from your experienced ski guides on this course.  We’ll teach you how to step into your bindings, how to put on your skins, and the basics of uphill travel.  We’ll get you started and keep the learning flowing all day.  It is important that you know how to travel downhill on beginner and intermediate ungroomed terrain. You don’t have to look pretty, just able to control your speed and direction.  Most people are backcountry beginners in this class, so you will be right at home if you’re just learning to ski off piste! We’ll also show you the basics of how to use your beacon, shovel, and probe.

You have prior backcountry ski/board/snowshoe experience with a guide or more experienced friend?

None, or a little.

You have taken a one-day avalanche awareness class?

Not required at all, but helpful. 

What can you expect to get out of this course?

You’ll get out and ski the backcountry with other women! We’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started including: a basic overview of backcountry travel, an introduction to making decisions in avalanche terrain, a demonstration of how to interpret the avalanche forecast, learn how to step into and out of your bindings.  Learn how to use your new backcountry set up, and your beacon, shovel and probe.  Meet other women who are just getting into the backcountry.  Be in the good hands of professional ski guides.   This is also a good way to prepare for  an AIARE Level 1 course.

Are you Ready to take your AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Class?

Yes, you are ready to learn decision making techniques in avalanche terrain! Read on…

What type of gear do you need?

An AT set up, telemark skis, a splitboard, snowboard+snowshoes combo, or snowshoes.   You’ll also need a beacon, shovel, and probe.  You may already own your own backcountry gear, or are plotting your next moves in purchasing your dream set up. Maybe you are demoing or borrowing some items. You can borrow a G3 shovel or probe from the Babes on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Email us to reserve a set!

Do you know how to use the gear you have?

Yes. You know how to put skins on your skis or splitboard. You have used your skins to travel uphill at least once before. You are comfortable moving down hill, controlling your speed and avoiding obstacles on ungroomed terrain that is beginner or intermediate steepness. Before the first day of class you have tried out your beacon, turned it on and off and played with the settings. You can assemble your shovel and probe.  Don’t worry, we will teach effective companion rescue (using your beacon efficiently, how to perform a search, how to use your shovel and probe.)  If you already know the basics of using your gear, you’ll be able to focus on absorbing avalanche knowledge in your AIARE course.  Our instructors and your classmates can help answer questions and fill in with some gear tech tips, and that is normal! To get the most out of your course, have your basics dialed, as our instructors will be focused on teaching avalanche curriculum.  (Sometimes people who are totally brand new to all their gear take our AIARE level 1 course and that is fine, although many of them express that they wished they had practiced a bit first as they were scrambling to figure it all out. )

Do you have prior backcountry experience?

There is a wide range of prior experience levels in AIARE Level 1. Some have limited experience in the backcountry, perhaps with a guide or more experienced friend or in non-avalanche terrain. Some people are brand new to the backcountry, and have done a one-day side country or backcountry tour before.  Some have been skiing in the backcountry extensively and had relied on other people’s judgement to help make decisions, now want to be more self-reliant.  Any level of experience is appropriate.  (We do recommend a one day Beginner Backcountry Ski Tour if you’ve never-ever backcountry skiied before to help you get more out of the course.)

Have you have taken a Beginner Backcountry tour or an avalanche awareness (one-day) class?

Not a formal prerequisite, but it is a great way to be introduced to concepts that will be expanded upon in the Level 1 course. It also allows you to make sure you are comfortable with your gear and confident traveling in the backcountry so that you can focus on evaluating terrain, understanding snowpack assessment and rescue skills.

What can you expect to get out of this course?

Learning about decision making in avalanche terrain, group think, beginning to recognize and evaluate terrain, introduction to snowpack and snowscience, human factors, and more.  A framework for making judgements in avalanche terrain, generally and specific to the area in which you are taking the course.  It’s a great building block for the life-long learning that goes into traveling in avalanche terrain!  You’ll also meet mentors, more women to ski with , and get introduced to the Backcountry Babes community.  Fun, learning, laughter, leadership. Many women report that they learned to speak their minds in a group setting with confidence now that they have the knowledge to back up their decisions.

(Also see:


Intermediate Backcountry Ski Tour:

Yes, I’ve been out in the backcountry before and I want to go out for a guided day in the backcountry with other rad women and ski!

Do you own your own gear?


You know how to use the gear you have?

Yes, you’ve been out anywhere from 4-50 times before on your  skis/splitboard. You know how to put skins on your skis or splitboard. You are comfortable moving uphill and downhill. You know how to use your beacon, shovel and probe. You’re open to learning cool tricks of the trade, tech tips, and helpful hints for skinning more efficiently or how to have more fun on the downhills.

You have prior backcountry experience?

Yes, you’ve gone out in the backcountry anywhere from 4-50 times. Maybe you are looking to develop your ownership of backcountry decision making, maybe you want feedback from your guides who have local knowledge and experience.  Maybe you’ve taking AIARE level 1 and now that you have more experience, you have more practical questions about how to apply that knowledge.  Maybe you just want to ski with other women and meet future ski partners, broaden your network, grow the Backcountry Babes community.  🙂   Or you just want to SKI 🙂

You have taken AIARE Level 1?

AIARE Level 1 or an equivalent 3-day avalanche education course is an optional prerequisite for our intermediate backcountry ski tours.  We recommend it, but not strictly necessary.

What can you expect to get out of this course?

Turns, turns, turns! These courses are focused on pure backcountry skiing.   You can also expect to gain more experience in avalanche terrain and feedback from an experienced ski guide and avalanche educator about your decision making.

Some people also take this class to refresh and build on their AIARE Level 1 avalanche course.  This guided ski day is a great chance to gain hands-on experience using that skill set.


AIARE Level 2:

Yes, I’ve taken AIARE Level 1 and spent a season in the backcountry…I’m eager to learn more!

You own your own gear? You know how to use the gear you have?

You already own and are very comfortable on your skis/board uphill or downhill. You are familiar with using your shovel, beacon, and probe and maybe some other tools related to assessing snowpack. You have been applying the skills taught in Level 1 (i.e., planning, building your team, observing avalanches, snow and weather, choosing terrain based on conditions, using travel techniques to further reduce your risk and practicing companion rescue) and you haYeve dug snow pits and feel comfortable with decision making in avalanche terrain.

You have prior backcountry experience?

You used the AIARE Level 1 decision making framework  as a mental map for planning successful backcountry trips.  You have experience making observations and reading other people’s observations on avalanche information websites.  A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is required before taking the AIARE 2 course.

You have taken AIARE Level 1?

AIARE Level 1 or an equivalent 3-day avalanche education course is a prerequisite for our AIARE Level 2.

What can you expect to get out of this course?

This course helps students prepare to take on a leadership role in recreational backcountry teams. This is also an introductory course for people who want to pursue professional tracks (guiding, avalanche educator, ski patrol, etc.). More specifically you can expect to advance your understanding of avalanche terrain, snow stability and the mechanisms of avalanche triggers and releases, discuss how the snowpack changes over time and locations, learn guidelines for snow, weather and avalanche observation and recording, learn a framework for snow stability analysis and forecasting, and improve companion rescue skills.

(Also see:

Can I become a Backcountry Babes instructor?


Kirstin, started as a Babes intern back in the 90s and is now one of our lead instructors.  Everyone was a beginner once, who decided to take a step towards instructing. To get started on the instructor track,  take your AIARE level 2, followed by an AIARE instructor training class (ITC) and shadow a class, and then you are well on the track towards becoming a course instructor. Our guides have more full-time work for other organizations (Cat-ski operations, ski patrol, avalanche techs, avalanche instruction schools, forecasters, etc.) and earned their training under the wings of a bigger organization.  Being a ski guide or an avalanche instructor is a life-long learning process.  Go for it!