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Are you ready to increase your avalanche detection skills?  Have you already taken a Level 1 avalanche course and the new Avalanche Companion Rescue course? Are you a dedicated backcountry skier or rider?  Whatever your story, the next step in a your avalanche education progression is an Avalanche Level 2 Course.

Backcountry Babes students exploring the snowpack in Colorado. Photo credit: Eryka Thorley.


The new Recreational AIARE Level 2 avalanche course is designed for the advanced winter backcountry traveler who is more focused on decision making in avalanche terrain than the crystal metamorphism and snow science that drive it. This course still includes a hefty discussion about snow and the daily and seasonal changes that occur in the snowpack but overall it’s designed for those of us that are more excited to plan a personal backcountry adventure (hut trips, BC ski lines, navigating more complex terrain) versus tracking down a professional forecast, guiding or ski patrol career. This isn’t to say that a Recreational Level 2 avalanche course won’t change your career path, it very well might, but it’s designed towards planning and executing personal ski trips versus an operational avalanche environment.  

Your Level 2 course will discuss persistent weak layers (like these mature late season facets) and how they influence decision making in the backcountry. Photo credit: Eryka Thorley.


The Recreational Level 2 course was newly released in 2017 and is a 3 day course with 24 hours of classroom and field based time.  During this time, you further explore topics introduced in the Level 1 course as well as expand into new snow loving territory…

Here’s the nitty gritty on the Recreational Level 2 avalanche course:

The Prerequisites:

A Level 1 Avalanche Course and the new Avalanche Companion Rescue Course (we are including the Rescue Course in our Level 2 at Backcountry Babes, meaning Day 1 is the Rescue Course, and Day 2, 3, and 4 is our Level 2 Course: check it out here).  

A group ski touring on a Backcountry Babes course in Utah.


What You’ll Learn in Level 2:

• You’ll learn to locate specific avalanche hazards in the snowpack: surface hoar, depth hoar, near surface faceting, and learn to efficiently identify their location in terrain.  From here you can learn how to choose terrain to best avoid the specific hazards that you are most concerned about.

• You’ll learn to overlay historical and new information into your terrain choices including snow, weather and avalanche observations.  Again you can apply this information into the practice of choosing appropriate terrain for the conditions.

• In small groups in the classroom and field, you will practice and learn leadership skills focused on group decision making, risk management and tour planning for appropriate terrain.  This is a practice, not a perfect. It takes a ton of practice to perfect these skills and often an expert will be the quickest to say they have more to learn in this category. A Recreational Level 2 will provide great practice with these skills.

• Your instructors will provide a basic forecasting framework that can be utilized in the field or in regions or seasons in which forecasting data is not readily provided (New Mexico, late season in the Rocky Mountains, etc.).  Forecasts are one of the best tools that we have for understanding the snowpack and which avalanche hazards are present. The AIARE Level 2 Course will dive further into developing your own forecast and practicing all that goes in to an accurate avalanche forecast.


Ski touring through complex terrain in British Columbia on a Backcountry Babes course.


If you already know that you are interested in a winter guiding, ski patrol or professional rescue path, it’s possible to take the Recreational Level 2 Avalanche course or move directly into a Professional Level 1.  The Professional Level 1 course has a test component and is more focused on measuring and reporting avalanche hazard to a professional standard.  The goal of the Pro 1 is to streamline scientific snow observations so that anyone working in a professional avalanche setting (ski patrol, highway worker, cat ski operation, backcountry lodge, etc.) will document their field observations in a standardized format.  My suggestion (of course I’m biased) is to take both courses as they provide you with that much more time in the classroom learning from industry experts and building your own avalanche resume.  Either way, we hope to see you in the classroom this winter season!  

Register for the Backcountry Babes AIARE Level 2 here: or check out all the other AIARE course providers here:

Written by Eryka Thorley, Backcountry Babes instructor, ski patroller, international traveler, mom, and all-around Babe.