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These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) answer some common questions we receive our about trips and courses. They are separated by our general course and trip categories. If you have further questions or you don’t see your answer here, feel free to contact us by phone or email ([email protected] or 530.414.9753).

AIARE Level 1

Can I snowshoe in my AIARE level 1 course?

Yes, you can snowshoe in our AIARE level 1 course.  Snowshoes, while not as efficient as alpine touring skis, are totally reasonable for the distances we hike to study snow in avalanche terrain. Because snowshoes do not float as well as larger planks like skis or splitboards, you’ll be slower on the up and down versus people in AT gear, which is absolutely fine as long as you’re up for that. We travel and learn together at all rates of travel and often there are 0-2 snowshoers in each of our classes.

Can I splitboard in my AIARE level 1 course? What about a snowboard and snowshoes?

Yes, you can splitboard in our AIARE level 1 course.  Snowboarders on snowshoes are also always welcome.  See snowshoeing question above.  Snowboarders: please bring 1 or 2 collapsible poles to help move yourself along any potential flat traverses.

How much touring and skiing will happen on our AIARE level 1 course?

The purpose of our AIARE Level 1 Course is to learn decision-making in avalanche terrain. We will venture into the backcountry, study snow, make terrain choices, and travel on our gear for anywhere from 1-4 hours a day.    During an AIARE level 1 course we tour only as much as needed to meet our curriculum objectives of studying snow and making terrain choices, so this typically means short touring stretches followed by topic demonstration or discussion. Everyone loves getting lots of turns, but that’s not the focus of this course. If you are looking for a field day that is more focused on skiing including lots of great backcountry turns, please register for our Beginner or Intermediate Ski Tours!

Do I have to be a good skier to take my AIARE Level 1?

Nope! The purpose of an AIARE Level 1 Course is to learn decision making skills in avalanche terrain.  We tour outside to observe avalanche terrain, snow conditions, etc. but the course is much more focused on knowledge absorption versus the turns. You must know how to hike uphill in your gear and you must be comfortable traveling downhill in your gear on ungroomed terrain.  You don’t need to be a ripping shredder or make perfect turns, however, a basic level of comfort on green/blue steepness terrain, ability to avoid obstacles and travel through uneven snow are musts for you to be able to safely tour with the class.

I’ve never used my beacon, shovel or probe before. Is that okay?

Yes, we will show you how to effectively use your beacon, shovel and probe in AIARE Level 1. To get the most out of the class, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics before you begin. The basics include fresh batteries in your beacon, know how to turn it on/off, try toggling from transceiver mode to search mode, and read the manual for the specific functions of your brand and model.  Be sure to assemble and disassemble your shovel and prove a few times.  If you are familiar with your gear before the course, you’ll be able to focus on what your instructors are teaching during this portion of the course: effective and efficient companion rescue techniques.

This is my first time using my backcountry skis. Is that okay?

We highly encourage you to use your backcountry set up before your AIARE level 1 class begins. A short tour in the snow is great. Step into and out of your bindings, toggle from tour mode to downhill mode, put on your skins, and  remove them.  This will help you become proficient with your systems so that you can focus on learning avalanche curriculum rather than figuring out your gear during the course. Also you may discover that you need to trim your skins, adjust your bindings, etc. It’s a good idea to try your backcountry skis at the ski resort so that you can get used to how they ski downhill, too.  Want to learn the basics from a Backcountry Babes pro? Join one of our Beginner Backcountry Ski Tours!  This course will launch you from the lifts and into the backcountry with a professional instructor and includes an evening session and a full day in the mountains. Plus you’ll likely meet other Babes who are new to backcountry skiing, too.

I’ve been touring in the backcountry for years and am just finally getting around to taking my AIARE level 1. Is this course good for me?

Yes, this is a perfect class for you.  Your hands-on experience in the backcountry and comfort on your gear and equipment will help you glean a ton out of this class. Many people report after their course that they are excited to have the knowledge to backup their decision making in the backcountry, and the knowledge to express concerns in the backcountry to their travel partners.

Am I the correct age to take this course?

People of all ages are welcome in our courses.  We’ve had participants from 13 to 75 in our classes.  With that said, it’s best for people ages 17 and under to have a parent/guardian take the class with them.  If you have a concern about your ability or physical fitness, please email [email protected] and we can answer any questions you might have. Phone: 530-414-9753

How do you pronounce AIARE?

Like the word airy; rhymes with fairy.  It stands for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education.  AIARE collects research and data, writes curriculum & course materials, trains instructors to be AIARE-qualified avalanche instructors, increases the public awareness of avalanches and avalanche safety, develops an international network of professional avalanche educators, and provides professional development.  For more information, check out http://aiare.info.

Do I need a lift ticket?

No, you do not need a lift ticket for any of our standard avalanche courses as we rely on self-propelled uphill travel!  Our Janet’s Hut trips take a chairlift part of the way up but your lift ticket is included in the tour cost.  At Silverton and in Japan we have the luxury of lift-accessed backcountry and again your lift tickets are included in the trip price.

Are there any hidden fees?

No, we don’t think so!  If you are comparison shopping, keep in mind that we include your Student Manual ($15.00) and AIARE field book ($29.00) in the cost of the course.  For courses like our AIARE Level 1 in Vail we also include the cost of parking on Vail Pass. We also have already wrapped taxes and fees into the final price; we don’t add it on at checkout.  Not all providers do that!

It’s early season and there is hardly any snow on the ground. Can we still hold our AIARE Level 1 Course?

Yes, we will still run our AIARE Level 1 course despite low snow. A low snowpack is very common for early season courses, and we’ve run many successful AIARE Level 1 training in these conditions. Much of the course curriculum remains the same. Topics like companion rescue, anatomy of an avalanche, case studies, human factors in decision making, red flags, avalanche types, terrain features, weather, snow grains and metamorphism and others are the same regardless of snowpack.  Our touring and snow pit profiles will be affected by the low snow, but there is still plenty of knowledge we will gather from our tour, such as terrain selection, weather factors,  travel techniques, planning a tour, how to dig a pit, etc.  We will dig pits in what we have, and the best practice is to continue to dig pits all season and see the changing conditions as they build on to each other.  From our experience and feedback, this course proves to be a valuable learning opportunity whether there is a deep snow pack or not.

The snowpack is going to be weird on our course (due to rain, low snow, high avalanche danger, low avalanche danger, wind effect etc…). Is this still a good time to take my AIARE Level 1?

Yes, whatever the snow conditions, it is definitely a good time to take your AIARE Level 1. Every avalanche course that we teach has a unique and different snowpack. It’s important to build your avalanche foundation, and learn the basic skills so that you can apply these skills to all future snowpack’s that you will encounter. No matter the conditions during your course, it’s important to experience a different snowpack later in the season and beyond.  If you’re interested in doing this with an experienced Backcountry Babes instructor, check out our Intermediate Ski & Splitboard Tours. These tours are a a great way to add more experience to your backcountry resume broadening your depth of knowledge.

AIARE Level 2

Do I need to take an AIARE Level 1 Course Before I take an AIARE Level 2 Course?

Yes. An AIARE 1 Course or equivalent Level 1 training is required before taking your AIARE Level 2.  If you took a full, three-day avalanche education course that included both classroom time and backcountry touring then your Level 1 will be a good base for building knowledge in an AIARE Level 2 Course.  If your level 1 was any shorter than 3 days, it probably is not sufficient and you will likely get more out of taking a full AIARE Level 1 then a Level 2.  A winter of practical experience after the Level 1 course is recommended before taking the AIARE 2 course.

I’ve taken an Intro to Avalanche Safety Class already. Should I skip AIARE Level 1 and jump to an AIARE Level 2 Course?

No way! An Introduction to Avalanche Safety Class, Beginner Backcountry Ski Tour, Know Before You Go Slideshow, Avalanche Awareness, or other 1-day course is a great lead in to taking your AIARE Avalanche Level 1.  The AIARE Avalanche Level 1 Course is a stand-alone course that offers 3 full days of avalanche curriculum covering snowpack, terrain selection, human factors in decision making, trip planning strategies, and more.  Everyone from beginners to experienced backcountry skiers find their Level 1 Course is extremely beneficial.  AIARE Level 2 is recommended for those who have already taken their AIARE Level 1 and want another 3-day course that goes develops their knowledge as recreational backcountry skiers.  It would not be useful to take the Level 2 without a strong understanding of the Level 1 materials as presented in a full 3-day level 1 course with instructors, classroom time and field time.

Are there any pre-requisites to taking AIARE Level 2?

Yes, a full avalanche level 1 (3 days) course PLUS the AIARE Rescue Course (1 day) are prerequisites for taking AIARE Level 2.

What is the difference between an AIARE Level 1 and and AIARE Level 2 Course?

Now that you have more experience in the backcountry, a Level 2 Course can be a great follow up to your AIARE Level 1 Course.  The AIARE Level 2 is a great way to review skills learned in your Level 1, apply those skills to a new setting, get coaching and mentorship from professional instructors on your decisions, assess hazards, and evaluate terrain.  Staying safe in the backcountry requires constant attention, learning, questioning what you think you know, building observational tactics, and mentorship from more experienced skiers.  The Level 2 is a great way to carve out 3 full days with professional instructors and fellow students with whom you can accelerate your learning curve.

British Columbia Hut Trip

What ability level do most people have on the trip?

On our Canada Hut trips we love to ski powder together! Our group is comfortable skiing downhill on ungroomed steep blue/ black diamond terrain.  We are a welcoming, encouraging, fun group of skiiers and love sharing the experience of skiing powder with old and new friends.

What is the uphill travel like on a British Columbia Hut Trip?

Gently Guided Grades.  Our ACMG Ski Guides set a beautiful skin track for us.  They break trail at the perfect grade for a long tour, and set a sustainable pace.  We want to be moving along, but able to talk and breathe while we walk! I find the skin tracks our guides set in BC to be MUCH smoother than the skin tracks I find myself on in Tahoe, Utah, and Colorado.

What ability level do most people have on the trip?

On our Canada Hut trips we love to ski powder together! Our group is comfortable skiing downhill on ungroomed steep blue/ black diamond terrain.  We are a welcoming, encouraging, fun group of skiiers and love sharing the experience of skiing powder with old and new friends.

What is the uphill travel like on a British Columbia Hut Trip?

Gently Guided Grades.  Our ACMG Ski Guides set a beautiful skin track for us.  They break trail at the perfect grade for a long tour, and set a sustainable pace.  We want to be moving along, but able to talk and breathe while we walk! I find the skin tracks our guides set in BC to be MUCH smoother than the skin tracks I find myself on in Tahoe, Utah, and Colorado.

What’s the downhill travel like on a British Columbia Hut Trip?

All of our downhill travel is backcountry skiing, so therefore ungroomed! Snow quality varies due to weather, but due to the northerly latitude of BC we expect cold powder, and great ski quality lasting through March and into April  (better than CA or CO in April.)  There is a variety of ski terrain around the huts, and our guides will choose what is appropriate for our ski group and the conditions.

The steepness ranges from blue to black.  Our ski guides will be making conservative decisions in regards to avalanche terrain and snowpack.  Often times that means choosing well-supported, low angle slopes.  Our guides are amazingly talented at finding the best slope angle and aspect to find the best ski quality available.  Many times we will be skiing well-supported, simple, low angle terrain due to conservative decisions regarding avalanche concerns.  (OF COURSE! Steer clear of anyone who promises Steeps in avalanche terrain!!) When conditions allow for us to ski steeper terrain like double black steepness, couloirs, or chutes we often split into 2 smaller groups, each with their own ACMG Ski Guide so that people can choose whether or not they want to go steep that day.

I have lots of sidecountry, slackcountry and/or bootpacking experience, but very little true backcountry experience. Is a hut trip good for me?

n a word, yes!  If you enjoy going out of bounds at the resort, entering lift accessed backcountry terrain, bootpacking, or any version of the “side country,” you are an awesome candidate for learning to backcountry ski with an alpine touring set up. Our guides and group members will take you under their wings, show you how to do it, share tech tips, and help you fly.  Several of our long-time returning hut trippers started as experienced resort skiiers who were newbies to the backcountry on our Canada trips. While it is relatively easy to learn to ski uphill, learning to ski downhill on ungroomed terrain takes time and experience. If you enjoy skiing blue/black off-piste terrain, then you are at the right level of downhill skiing for this trip.

What are the other women on the trip like?

We have a mix of returning and new clients on our Canada hut trips.  We are ages 30-65+, fun, inclusive, friendly, funny women who like to ski with other women.  People fly in from all over the world.  Last year our group included women from Colorado, Montana, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Chile, and Canada.  We are architects, website designers, financial advisors, reporters, professors, mothers of young children, mothers of grown children, software developers, consultants, nurses, and more. Our clients enjoy not having to plan the details of a ski trip, knowing they are in the good hands of Canadian Mountain guides, look forward to good Backcountry Babes company, and enjoy 3 catered meals a day served in a casual environment, a nicely stoked sauna, oh yeah, and the powder skiing!!

What are the ages of women who come to BC?

In 2016 the Powder Creek group included people ages, 59; 57; 50; 42; 38; 40; 57; 47; 50; 59; 65; 36 and 31 (that’s me!). No matter your age, you will fit right in with our group.

How big will our group be on a British Columbia Hut Trip?

Typically we are a group of 11 clients, plus 2 full ACMG Ski Guides, 1 or 2 Backcountry Babes trips leaders/tail guides, a chef, and a custodian in separate guide quarters.  On a Backcountry Babes trip we book the entire lodge exclusively for our group. We will run a trip with as few as 8 clients and as many as 11. We hire two ACMG Canadian Mountain Guides so that we can ski in smaller groups of up to 6 people plus 1 guide and 1 tail guide as conditions allow.

Can I bring my teenager with me on a Backcountry Babes trip?

Yes, definitely. We have had teenagers join us on AIARE Level 1 Courses and at Silverton Mtn in the past.  Your backcountry skiing teenager is welcome to join us on a trip, together with you. Typically teenagers really benefit from meeting women who are successful leaders in their fields on these ski trips. Oh, and we think it’s fun! Naturally, we’ll end up treating your teenager just the same as all our women in the group.

CO-ED Courses

What are the Co-Ed AIARE courses like?

Our unique, all women’s trips carry an attitude that is inclusive, supportive, uplifiting and inspiring.  We’re proud of the positive learning environment we have created together, and we have found it easy to carry the same attitude into our co-ed courses.  Guess what? Our male clients also appreciate our supportive, comfortable, non-competitive atmosphere.

I’m noticing that I have a male instructor for my trip. I thought Backcountry Babes was by women, for women? What’s up?

Yes, our mission is to support women into leadership roles in the outdoors. We hire people of all genders who support our mission. Currently there are a very limited number of women who hold lead instructor qualifications with AIARE. Therefore, we find it even more important for us to offer all women’s courses, give scholarships, encourage our students to become instructors, and foster our course instructors into the lead instructor role! We believe that men and EVERYONE are an important part of the process of creating gender equality in our society. (Many researchers and social scientists back this idea, too.) We strive to hire instructors who know what it’s like to learn about the mountains, enjoy helping people learn how to be proficient in the outdoors, and support women’s leadership in the outdoors.

Why are there so few mountain guides who are women?

Here’s a quote from the AMGA website: “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction work holds the lowest percentage of female representation among surveyed occupations, comprising roughly nine percent. The second lowest? Ski guiding.” As of 2016 only 11% of American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Ski Guides are women. Factor in AMGA Alpine Guides and Rock Guides, and the number drops to 8% according to Jane Anderson, logistics coordinator. Ski Guide Sheldon Kerr provides one explanation, “Women tend to lack mentorship because folks who are established in the industry tend to mentor people they see themselves in,” says Kerr of the male-dominated field. “So it’s not necessarily some sort of conscious discrimination; it’s unconscious bias. For that reason, we have smaller, fewer opportunities to be with the mentors we’d like to have.” Read the full article here: https://amga.com/leading-charge-amga-women/

I think that the lack of women ski guides is symptomatic of widespread, systematic gender inequality throughout our society. But, hey, that’s a really huge problem so let’s tackle what we can, piece by piece. Since we love skiing and we’re in the ski industry, we’ll start by supporting more women on their path to leadership in their backcountry skiing communities.

How do you support women?

One way we support women is through our Women’s Avalanche Education Scholarship Fund. Women can apply to get funding for AIARE Level 1 and 2 courses provided by Backcountry Babes. Second, we grow our course offerings to provide more employment opportunities for women instructors and guides. Third, we offer a limited number of scholarships for women who would like to take their AIARE level 3 and/or Instructor Training Course through AIARE. Fourth, we create and grow a community of women who like to ski together. Rather nebulous in form, hard to define, and hard to explain, our community is probably the most important piece of it all. You are warmly invited to come to one of our courses, events, or trips. Join the tribe!

We currently have 5 women working with Backcountry.com for a scholarship to become AMGA Ski Guide and 5 women working with Backcountry.com for a scholarship to become AIARE Course Leaders.  Each of these professional tracks represents years of coursework and exams to become leaders in their fields. We are so proud to be involved in creating such a cool opportunity to bring more women up to the top.

Private Trips

Can I do a private trip?

Yes, you absolutely can.  Before other people register, you can claim any trip dates and make it private.  Or, we can duplicate an existing trip on dates that are ideal for your party. Or, tell us what you want in your ideal trip and we can create it for you. We’ll design an itinerary, set you up with an amazing instructor, and we’ll be the point person for you and all your friends to register.  Send us an email to [email protected] and we’ll get your private trip started.

Cancellations

Help, I need to cancel! What do I do?

No problem,  we will help you process your cancellation. How much of a refund you get back will depend on how much notice you give us. The more notice, the better! To initiate a cancellation, please fill out this form: https://backcountrybabes.com/cancel-form/    For more details please see our cancellation policy.

For questions, please email [email protected]

I need to cancel for medical reasons. Can I get a refund for this reason?

We cannot offer different refunds based on the reason for cancellation. Our cancellation policy reflects the commitments we make to our guides and the costs we incur when setting up a trip or clinic. In an effort to keep trip prices lower for everyone, we do not build the cost of cancellations into our trip pricing. However, we do offer partial refunds with enough notice. Please see our cancellation policy page for more detailed info.

Tech Support

I’m trying to register online, but it won’t let me. What can I do?

Sorry you’re having difficulty! We don’t want technology to block you from joining our course. Feel free to send us an email anytime and we can help when we’re back in the office. OR, give us a call at 530-414-9753 and we can get you registered over the phone.

If you want to try again online, try opening the page in another browser. For example, if you’re using Safari, try again using Google Chrome.  Or in Google Chrome try File – New Incognito Window- and register in this new window.  Sometimes the Incognito setting helps fix whatever was wrong.  Also make sure to double check you got your payment information correct.

You may have to click the calendar start date to move forward.

Your phone number isn’t working. What’s up?

It’s a one-woman office at Backcountry Babes.  Sometimes I’m unavailable, or Google Voice is not operating properly, or I’m out of cell-range helping instruct a course that’s in the backcountry.  Please leave a voicemail, or better yet, email me at [email protected] to get the help you need.  Thank you for your patience!