We love avalanche education! A better-educated public skis and climbs smarter, skis and climbs more, and lives longer to ski and climb more. What’s not to love!? The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) is the leading provider of avalanche education curriculum in the United States. AIARE has developed a 3-step series of courses to serve backcountry travelers of all types. Level 1 and Level 3, living securely at either end of the hierarchy, enjoy a clearly defined constituency. Level 1 is a purpose-built decision-making course for recreational backcountry travelers. The level 3 is a professional-level program for guides, patrollers and forecasters. Few know what to do with that middle child, the Level 2. Allow us to shed some light on the question “is the Level 2 right for me?” Or, even “am I right for the level 2?”
AIARE labels the Level 2 as their course for “Analyzing snow stability and Avalanche Hazard”. Great, right? What does that mean? Isn’t that what we’re always doing? In short, yes it is. Let us be more direct.
You should take a Level 2 course if you meet any one of these criteria:
- You travel into the snowy backcountry of areas and ranges without a professionally-prepared Avalanche Advisory/Bulletin.
- You travel into the snowy backcountry more than 15 or 20 days each season.
- You are, or intend to be, a professional ski or alpine guide.
- You are, or intend to be, a professional ski patroller at an area with avalanche terrain.
- You find yourself regularly leading groups of lesser-experienced partners into the backcountry.
You are ready to take a Level 2 course if you meet all of these criteria:
- You have taken a Level 1 and understand more than some of what you learned.
- You have spent a season or two (at least) effectively planning and executing trips into the snowy backcountry.
- You can (and have) thoroughly practiced complicated and successful “companion rescue” scenarios.
So, where do you fit?