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The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) is a globally recognized organization whose mission is to Save Lives through Avalanche Awareness. Whether you plan to be in the backcountry this winter skiing, climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, you need this knowledge to play safely in snow covered mountains. The AIARE 1 course is an introduction to avalanche hazard management. Students can expect to develop a good grounding in how to prepare for and carry out a backcountry trip, to understand basic decision making while in the field, and to learn rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person (if an avalanche occurs and someone in the party is caught). Upon finishing the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion and be ready to move onto more advanced courses.

The Synnott Mountain Guides AIARE classes are led by Mark Synnott (AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide) and Nick Aiello-Popeo (AIARE 3 Certified & AIARE Instructor). Mark, Nick, and the other instructors are able to not only teach the AIARE standard curriculum, but also draw on their own personal experiences and passion for avalanche awareness to prepare you for your own adventures.

The AIARE 1 course costs $450 and avalanche safety equipment (transceiver/shovel/probe) will be provided by SMG for use during the course (however, you are encouraged to bring your own). The course is best booked online below, but you may also book via email or phone (if you have a group and would like to setup a custom AIARE I course, please contact us). You may book multiple people and pay in one order, but please complete this booking form for each person so we have full details.

Course Information

The AIARE 1 course is expected to:

  • Provide a basic understanding of avalanches
  • Describe a framework for decision making and risk management in avalanche terrain
  • Focus on identifying the right questions, rather than on providing “answers.”
  • Give lessons and exercises that are practically oriented, useful, and applicable in the field.

At the end of the AIARE 1 course the student should be able to:

  • Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain.
  • Effectively use the AIARE Decision Making Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting
  • Demonstrate effective companion rescue.
Instructional sessions (24 hours including both class and field instruction):

1. Introduction to Avalanche Phenomena

  • Types and characteristics of avalanches
  • Avalanche motion
  • Size classification
  • The mountain snowpack: an introduction to metamorphism and layering

2. Observations and Information Gathering

  • Field observation techniques
  • Snowpack tests: rutschblock, compression test
  • Avalanche danger factors or “Red Flags”
  • Observation checklist
  • Avalanche danger scale

3. Trip Planning and Preparation

  • Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
  • Route finding and travel techniques
  • Decision making and Human Factors

4. Companion Rescue and Equipment

Prerequisites

Students must be able to travel in avalanche terrain and bring appropriate equipment (backcountry skis, splitboard, snowshoes, etc.) for traveling on snow to class. There are no other prerequisites.

Based on AIARE recommendations and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our winter 2020/2021 AIARE 1 courses will consist 4 hours of online learning (at a time of your choosing), a live 3 hour evening lesson via Zoom two days before your course start date, and 2 full days in the field. The online learning and live Zoom lesson replace the traditional classroom day.

The “start date” of your course is the first field day. Here is a sample itinerary for an AIARE 1 course with dates of March 20-21, with the start date of March 20:

SAMPLE ITINERARY

  • Now to March 17: Complete the AIARE 1 online learning module.
  • March 18 at 7:00 PM: Lesson via Zoom with entire course.
  • March 20: Field Day #1 – Meet at the Synnott Mountain Guides office at 7:30 AM, dressed and packed for a field day. We’ll conclude the day around 4:30 PM.
  • March 21: Field Day #2 – Meet at 7:30 AM (or time given by instructor) at location designated by instructor. We’ll conclude the day around 4:30 PM.

Your instructor will be in touch before your course with full specific schedule and location details.

For the 2020/21 season, Synnott Mountain Guides and AIARE are committed to providing avalanche education in a safe and responsible manner. Avalanche educators preach the value of adjusting to changing conditions, which now includes the COVID-19 pandemic. With your help, we’ll be learning about mountain safety while also respecting state and local health guidelines.

This season, the lecture portion of the AIARE 1 course will take place online before the course begins. There will be a four hour online learning module which can be completed any time between now and your course date. In addition, your class will meet together live via Zoom for three hours. This live video conference will take place from 6 to 9PM eastern time, two days prior to your first field day. During the Zoom lesson/meeting, your instructor will cover the gear list in detail. This will help ensure we all arrive dressed for the outdoors.

The “start date” of your course is the first field day for your class. You’ll meet your instructor team outdoors at our office at 279 NH-16, Intervale, NH 03860. We’ll then drive our own vehicles to our field location for the day.

Here is a sample itinerary for an AIARE 1 course with dates of March 20-21, with the start date of March 20:

  • Now to March 17: Complete the AIARE 1 online learning module.
  • March 18 at 7:00 PM: Online lesson/meeting via Zoom with entire course.
  • March 20: Field Day #1 – Meet at the Synnott Mountain Guides office at 7:30 AM, dressed and packed for a field day. We’ll conclude the day around 4:30 PM.
  • March 21: Field Day #2 – Meet at 7:30 AM (or time given by instructor) at location designated by instructor. We’ll conclude the day around 4:30 PM.

This season is presenting challenges that none of us have ever faced before. But with some patience and creative thinking, we’ll enjoy another fun and educational winter.

How do I know when the 3 hour Zoom lesson/meeting will be?

The 3 hour Zoom lesson/meeting always occurs two days before your course start date at 7:00 PM eastern time. As an example, if your course start date is March 20, then your Zoom lesson will be on March 18 at 7:00 PM eastern time.

Will masks be required?

Face coverings such as a cloth mask, buff, or bandanna will be required equipment. Any time you’re within 6 feet of another person, you’ll need to wear your mask. While hiking and skiing, we’ll space out farther than 6 feet whenever possible. A mask isn’t just for your own protection — it shows that you respect the health of your fellow students and instructors.

How large will groups be?

Our field groups typically consist of seven people, including the instructor. Private courses are available if you inquire very early in the season, and pricing will vary.

Won’t it be cold meeting outside to start the field days?

Meeting outside will be a necessary evil if you wish to take an AIARE course this season. We’ll all be meeting dressed for the outdoors, and you can wait in your car until we’re ready to hit the trail.

Will Tuckerman Ravine be open?

This is an impossible question to answer. But contrary to popular belief, wild avalanche terrain exists far beyond Tuckerman Ravine and we have many location options in the White Mountains for AIARE 1 course field days.

2020-2021 SMG AIARE 1 Gear List (PDF)

Mountains, Cliffs, & Routes

Conditions permitting, this course will take place in a variety of terrain on Mount Washington. We may also utilize other steep/open terrain in the White Mountains such as Crawford Notch.

Difficulty

Beginner - Advanced

Length

3 Days

Season

Winter

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