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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 be an active decision maker in avalanche terrain. 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?


Earning turns

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When? The Level 2 course is recommended after at least one season of backcountry skiing after your Level 1 course. Also, the 1-day AIARE Rescue Course is a prerequisite to taking your level 2. By that time have 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, you want to practice what you already know, and you want to apply your terrain reading and decision making skills in the class to earn in-person knowledge from your instructors. 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, and practice what you already know to new situations.

Is the AIARE 2 for recreationalists or professionals? The AIARE 2 is a 3-day course focused on what backcountry recreationalists want to know.  The curriculum includes more terrain management, on-the-go observations, group skills, and working towards the question…can I ski this?  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 build on last year’s AIARE Level 1 class. Because we keep our class sizes small, you get individualized instruction that matches your interests.

Aspiring avalanche professionals (ie, guides, ski patrollers, highway avalanche mitigation, etc) will want to take an AIARE Pro 1 Course instead of an AIARE 2.  (I’m a serious backcountry skier, should I go ahead and take the Pro course?  No…. although the word “pro” does sound really appealing, the reality is that the Professional course is longer, more expensive, has testing elements, and focuses a lot on standard language & measurements for operations, and documenting data to international snow science standards.   It is less likely to be helpful in answering the question, “Should I ski this?” People take the AIARE Pro 1 for a job, and people take the AIARE Level 2 Rec to ski more days in the backcountry with more knowledge 🙂

Do I have enough experience? What if I’m not ready? Women in general are more likely to doubt their readiness than men are.  If you’ve taken an AIARE Level 1 in the past few years, and have taken the prerequisite AIARE Rescue, we’re going to go ahead and encourage you to sign up.  If you want to reallllly be prepared, here are some things you can do: review your course materials from Level 1. Go backcountry skiing and make observations, use your blue book, and read “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain”. If you want a 1-day experience to brush up on Level 1, meet other backcountry skiers in your area, and get advice from an avalanche professional we recommend our Intermediate Backcountry Tour.  It’s a day of backcountry skiing with other women who have taken AIARE Level 1 already, coached by a Backcountry Babes instructor.  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 learning.  Our AIARE level 2 course helps you prepare to take on a leadership role in recreational 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.

(Also see: More Level 2 Resources and Info from AIARE and Backcountry Babes AIARE Courses)