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Avalanche Level 1 AIARE Certification

  • Jan 11, 2014 · 8:00 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

Avalanche Safety Level 1: Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain

Get the skills you need to venture higher and farther. This essential course is a three-day, nationally recognized American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) certification. Avy 1 introduces backcountry travelers to tools, techniques, and skills necessary to make good observations, sound decisions, and to manage their risk in avalanche terrain - core knowledge for climbers at all levels.  

This event is open to all SMC members regardless of sign off level achieved.  Good physical fitness is required since the field portion of the course requires traveling 2 - 4 miles in moderate to difficult terrain on skis or snowshoes. Maximum 10, minimum of 8.  For SMC members only.  Not a member? Join here.


SMC Membership Information:

• Join SMC monthly or annually

• View SMC Membership benefits

• See videos of SMC in action



Saturday, January 11:  Lectures, Exercises, Scenarios

·  Introductions

·  Course goals and objectives

·  Avalanche accident case history

·  The decision making framework

·  Types and characteristics of avalanches

·  Avalanche motion and size

·  The mountain snowpack, snow metamorphism

·  Avalanche terrain, travel techniques

·  Avalanche activity, weather, snowpack: observation data and techniques

·  Avalanche danger and snow stability, observation checklist

·  Us humans!

·  Backcountry planning and preparation, the hazard forecast rose

·  Rescue equipment, companion rescue

Sunday, January 12:  Field Work

·  Risk Management

·  Plan

·  Field data observation and collection

·  Rescue equipment

·  Companion rescue

·  Rescue scenarios

·  Avalanche terrain

·  Introduction to the snow profile

·  Stability tests: compression test, Rutschblock

Monday, January 13:  Field Work

·  Rescue plan

·  Avalanche danger forecast

·  Terrain evaluation, travel techniques through avalanche terrain

·  Field observations

·  Visit at least two avalanche accident sites

·  Snow profile

·  Stability tests: compression test, Rutschblock, tilt test

·  Terrain, terrain, terrain!

·  Course wrap-up




Dates: January 11, 12, 13 (Saturday - Monday)

Location:  Donner Summit

Cost: $365

The course fee is set by the course provider and not by the club.

Accommodations: The club will be renting a house at Serene Lakes near Soda Springs CA in the Donner Summit area.  The rate to stay at the rented house will be $50 per night per person. The house is approximately 3 miles from the location where the course is being taught.  The house will be rented for Saturday and Sunday nights.  There are two Queen beds and four single beds and a couch for sleeping.  So depending on the enrollment, there may be a need for 3 folks to sleep on the carpeted floor in loft area with their pad and sleeping bag.  Please plan to bring your sleeping bag instead of using the bed linens.  The house is very pleasant with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, a nice living room with fireplace, a full kitchen, hot tub, TV's.  There is no wifi and cell phone service is spotty to non-existent due to the remote location.  If you would like to make your own lodging arrangements, the Clair Tappaan Lodge is nearby.  The rate is $55 per night for Sierra Club members and $60 for non members with dormitory style bunk beds.  Also, the town of Truckee is approximately 12 miles away with several hotels.  If you are planing on either of those options, please make your reservations soon due to the fact that ski season is almost here.  For those who wish to rough it, there is plenty of National Forest Land for camping.

If you plan to stay at the house which the club has rented for the course at Serene Lakes please add the $100 fee (two nights stay) to your course payment.

We will go out to one of the local restaurants at Donner Summit for dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights.  However, if you wish to stay home, please bring a meal to prepare.  Breakfast will be left to each individual to prepare as they desire.  Again, there is a full kitchen with fridge and stove.

Fitness and Difficulty Level: Moderate/Difficult

Max Elevation: 8,000 ft

Starting Elevation: 7,000 ft





Wicking, breathable baselayers, top and bottom

• Insulating, weather-resistant mid-layer, top and bottom

• Wind and waterproof shell layer, top and bottom

• Insulating fill jacket

• 2 pair wool / poly socks, liners

• Mountaineering boots, or sturdy backpacking boots, or ski boots (only if on on skis)

• Lightweight liner gloves

• Waterproof gloves or mittens

• Dark sunglasses

• Warm hat - the touque!

• Sun hat

• Balaclava


• 30 - 50 liter pack

• Trekking poles with snow baskets

• Minimum 15 degree sleeping bag (can be higher rating if staying in the rented cabin with the group)

• Sleeping pad (cabin has beds for 8 persons)

• Food for field portions of the course

• Water bottles or containers. Water bladders not recommended in freezing weather.

• Headlamp

• Compass, GPS also recommended if available

• Maps will be provided

• Sunscreen

• Camera

• Small knife

• Personal items, medications

• Emergency items - keep it small.


Avalanche Probe (can be rented from course provider)

Shovel (can be rented from course provider)

Avalanche Beacon (can be rented from course provider)

Snowshoes or AT or Tele Skis for travel in backcountry (snowshoes can be rented from REI - AT and Tele Skis as well as snowshoes can be rented from Back Country in Truckee)



For questions or more information, please contact the SMC Event Leaders for this event.

You may also contact the SMC Mountaineering Director Darren Shutt at [masked] or call (916)[masked] or the SMC Managing Director Phil Montanes at [masked] or (916)[masked] if you have questions regarding this course.

Looking forward to having you out there with us!


SMC: Connect, Learn & Climb

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  • Rick B.

    Yep, it was kind of a brain freeze,and I agree with Kelvin that I sure will look at snow and terrain with some enlightenment. And SMC may stand for Sierra Movie Company for the actors it employs! Thanks Phil for a great 3 days!

    1 · January 14, 2014

  • Kelvin N.

    Yes, Thank you Phil for organizing this great class.I am sure we will see snow different from now on. Also, great spending times with my NorCal family.

    1 · January 14, 2014

  • Wayne

    This was great training and we had some good fun with the avalanche rescue scenarios. I'd have to say Mike"The Crazed Digger" got best actor. We learned so much about snow in this class our heads hurt :) Thanks again Phil for putting this one together!

    January 14, 2014

  • Terrie

    Sonja, I'm coming from Vallejo and can pick you up in Davis if you still want to carpool.

    January 8, 2014

    • Mike

      Terrie, have an extra spot for one more?

      January 9, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Terrie, i have one friend here in Davis who might get on the course last minute because of a cancellation. Is it still possible for all of us to commute together? When and where do you want to meet? My cell is[masked]

      January 10, 2014

  • Wayne

    I'm planning on picking up Kelvin in Roseville before heading up the hill on Saturday. If anyone needs a ride let me know. I'm planning on leaving Dixon around 515am or so.

    January 9, 2014

    • Mike

      Wayne I'll take you up on that offer. Shall I see you at the Safeway?

      January 10, 2014

    • Wayne

      That'll work. See you there.

      January 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi Avy Course Folks,

    There was a question about the viability of the course this weekend given our snow conditions. Here is a 5-word response from Randal from the Sierra Snow Lab (the course instructor): “The course is a go” As someone who has taken the course before, I think you will have enough snow. The course is about 50% classroom and the rest in the field, so you need adequate snow to practice safe route selections, evaluate weak/consolidated layers in pit tests, dig pits for compression tests, and bury transceivers for search and rescue practice.

    Darren, Wayne, Waide and I were on the north side of Donner Peak this past weekend doing a Mountain One course for the club (near where the AVY class will be held) and I would concur that there is enough snow on the north sides of mountains and in the trees for an AVY 1 course.

    So as Randall says “The course is a go”

    January 9, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Time to think about carpooling. I am coming from Davis and would like to carpool. Anybody driving from the Bay Area is welcome to stay at my place Friday night if you want to break up the drive or avoid getting up really early on Saturday.

    January 8, 2014

  • Darren S.

    This class is now full!
    How cool that we could fill 10 spots on this Avy 1 course with SMC members...those of you who take it will be able to share and reinforce your training with each other on future climbs.

    1 · November 19, 2013

  • Darren S.

    Welcome Danielle and Richard, and everyone else! We now have only two more spots left! Those of you on the "want a spot" list, go ahead and register! Follow the links in the posting.

    November 18, 2013

  • Darren S.

    Welcome to Avy 1 Mary!
    Awesome everyone! We met our minimum for this course - there are now only 4 spots left!

    2 · November 15, 2013

    • Wayne

      Sweet... I know a lot of us are really looking forward to this one. Thanks for putting this one together Darren.

      1 · November 15, 2013

    • Darren S.

      You bet. The credit for this course goes entirely to Phil. He's the one who put in the hours to make this happen!

      November 18, 2013

  • Darren S.

    We need to fill this course by Sunday to secure it for SMC folks only.
    If you are considering, take a look around and you'll see this is a very good price.
    Everyone who does a level of serious alpine climbing, skiing or ice climbing should take this course! I have taken it twice. Your $365 will be WELL worth the knowledge and security you'll gain in keeping yourself safe in avy terrain.

    November 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hey guys, the course provider has given us until Sunday (yep - this Sunday Nov 17) to get to at least 8 who have paid for the course. Sorry for the short decision time but that is what we were given. Their season is short for teaching this kind of class and they need a quick decision from us as a group or they they need to open the course date back up for the public. If this does not fly, we will try again with another provider, but will most likely find ourselves with the same quick decision time with another provider. The good news . . . less than 12 hours into the posting and we are getting closer to our goal!

    November 13, 2013

  • Darren S.

    Those of you who want a spot: please go to the links in this posting and register. We have room for 12. Thanks!

    November 13, 2013

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