AIARE 2 Avalanche Course
The Blackbird AIARE 2 is a program that elevates your ability to assess and manage avalanche hazard as you move into tackling bigger tours, higher peaks and the greater ranges of the world - and will help you find better snow in your own backyard! It expands upon the foundation you built in the Blackbird AIARE 1 and Blackbird ARC Avalanche Rescue Course, to look deeper into the baseline of weather, snow, route planning, human dynamics and avalanche terrain selection.
Blackbird AIARE 2 (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) is meant for experienced backcountry travelers who want to step up their game to become leaders of their recreational groups. You should feel comfortable with the concepts and lessons learned in your level 1 course and have a number of ski tours in which you were able to apply those skills under your belt.
Understanding the avalanche phenomenon is a lifelong pursuit and the Blackbird AIARE 2 is the perfect way to solidify your knowledge and refine your practices in the field.
The topics that will be covered are:
The Avalanche Problems
Human Factors and Assembling your Team
Trailhead Departure Check
Blackbird AIARE 2 is for backcountry riders who have:
- Taken a Blackbird AIARE 1 (or similar AIARE 1). If you have not, sign up with us here. Even if you've been skiing for years in the backcountry, the Blackbird AIARE 1 will add insight and understanding to concepts that were fuzzy or not well understood and get you up to speed.
- Taken the Blackbird ARC (or similar AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course). If you have not, sign up with us here. The Blackbird ARC is an intensive day of companion and small team avalanche rescue designed to help you understand the process of avalanche rescue. You should leave feeling comfortable leading or assisting a small team rescue if you need to put those skills to use in a real situation.
- Have Appropriate Gear. Ski touring bindings or splitboards are much more functional than snowshoes. Please do not plan on using snowshoes during this course as it can impede the progress of the team. Likewise, a safety concern for the team is having functional avalanche tools, including:
- Digital Beacon (newer than 5 years old or recently checked by the manufacturer)
- High Quality Aluminum Shovel (plastic blades often break in dense avalanche debris)
- High Quality Probe (modern, quickdraw style)
2 Field Days plus 8 hours of Online Coursework and Pre-Field Webinar
Prices$595 per person
The Blackbird A2 program is exclusive to Blackbird Mountain Guides. We have done a massive amount of legwork to provide you with a course that fits your needs and provides meaningful education that extends beyond the dates of our course.
Our state of the art online program allows you to tackle the classroom portion of the learning at home before the coursem, on your schedule. That’s right, no need to take a friday off, no need to wait for a holiday weekend, just plan to spend that 8 hours with us learning online before the course. Plus, you’ll be able to come back to this online content even after the course is done to refresh concepts that need more clarification.
Once you’ve completed the online program, you’ll have two full days in the field with our expert Avalanche instructors to see and experience snowpack, terrain and rescue skills.
Online Coursework (6 hours): Immediately after signing up for Blackbird A2, you can begin learning. Take the Online Coursework whenever it makes sense for you. You’ll need roughly 6 hours to complete this portion of the course. This education is for your own development and understanding, so study hard and come up with some good questions for your instructor. The more knowledge you have before you arrive to the field, the more you and your fellow participants will get out of the course.
Please take notes and write down questions as you progress through the online coursework so that we can review them in the “Pre-Field Webinar.”
Pre-Field Webinar (2.5 hours): Before the course, you’ll be invited to a “Pre-Field Webinar” where you avalanche instructor will tie the lessons of the online coursework together with some fun and helpful exercises. After that, there will be time available for questions.
Pre-Field Homework: Create a trip plan for our first field day.
Field Day 1: Ski Tour with Avalanche Observations
8:00 am Meet your guide and review the plan for the day. Your guide will open a group discussion of the current avalanche problem and the implications it has on our objective. We will discuss what appropriate observations are given the avalanche problem type and our venue. We will discuss and choose proposed ascent routes up and options for the descent. Your guide will coach you on how to conduct a Trailhead Departure Check/Beacon Check if anyone is unclear.
8:30 am Tour to the observation site, making critical weather and snowpack observations along the way in real time. We will discuss pertinent on the go observations so that we keep the group moving and move in a timely manner to complete the ski objective.
Decision making based on observations we make will be the key factor. We can devote time to studying snowpack, terrain, group movement, human factors, small team avalanche rescue or weather depending on which topics are the most pertinent to the program at hand.
3:30 pm We will close the program at the trailhead with a quick review of the skills that we learned, a synopsis of the avalanche observations that we made and an overview of what to expect the following day in the field.
Homework will be for participants to create an appropriate tour for the following day based on local resources available, weather forecast, avalanche advisory and the observations we made during the day.
Field Day 2: Participant Led Ski Tour with Mentored Avalanche Observations and Decision Making
8:00 am We’ll meet at the trailhead for our objective. Participants will lead us through the changes in weather in the last 24 hours, forecast for the day, the current avalanche problems/advisory, our route plan and options, an emergency action plan and perform the trailhead beacon check.
Participants will switch out leading the program throughout the day, working together to make appropriate decisions considering the avalanche hazard, weather and group dynamics. We’ll practice gathering observations, prioritizing information and making decisions with our teams just like the previous day, but guides will shift to a mentorship role and relinquish much of the leadership to the participants.
We’ll regroup at the trailhead to debrief the tour and discuss the lessons of the day and the lessons learned from the program as a whole. We will close out the program with guidance on good ideas to help you choose your next steps in avalanche education and ski touring.
Backcountry Touring Gear
❏ Alpine Touring Skis or Splitboard - Light to Midweight Setup with “Tech Bindings”
❏ Alpine Touring Boots or Splitboard Compatible Boots; Scarpa F1
❏ Climbing Skins - Mohair Mix is Best; Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix,
❏ Touring Backpack - A Pack with Avalanche Tools Pocket; BD Cirque 35
❏ Ski Poles - Lightweight, Adjustable Poles with Baskets; BD Expedition 3 Poles
❏ Ski Helmet - Lightweight S
❏ Avalanche Beacon - Digital Avalanche Transceiver; Black Diamond Guide Recon BT
❏ Avalanche Shovel - Collapsible, Aluminum Shovel; Backcountry Access BT2 Shovel
❏ Avalanche Probe - Quickdraw Style Probe; Backcountry Access Stealth 300
Head and Neck Layers
❏ Sun Hat - A Baseball Hat; Blackbird Mountain Guides Logo Hat
❏ Sunglasses - Dark Lens Glasses with Side Coverage; Julbo Shield
❏ Goggles - Ski Goggles with a Storm Lens; Julbo Aerospace Reactive
❏ Warm Hat - Lightweight Warm Hat that Fits Under Your Helmet;
❏ Neck Gaiters - Light to Midweight Neck Gaiters; Buff or your favorite Face Masks
***These Are Required as Covid-19 Face Coverings
Upper Body and Hand Layers
❏ Long Sleeve Base Layer - Lightweight, Synthetic/Wool; Patagonia SunHoody
❏ 2 Insulating Top Layers - Light to Midweight Insulation Layers; Patagonia R1 & Nano Air
❏ Puffy - Midweight Down or Synthetic with Hood; Patagonia Fitzroy or similar
❏ Hardshell Jacket, Hooded - Waterproof, Gore-Tex, NOT insulated; Arc’Teryx Alpha FL
❏ Light Gloves - Light to Mid Weight for Warm Temps; Flylow John Henry Gloves, BD Tour
❏ Midweight Gloves - Mid to Heavy Weight for Cold Conditions; BD Legend
❏ Sports Bra - Wool/Synthetic;
Lower Body and Foot Layers
❏ Socks - Midweight Wool/Synthetic; Darn Tough Via Ferrata
❏ Underwear - Wool/Synthetic
❏ Long Underwear - Wool/Synthetic “Long Johns”; Patagonia Capilene Air
❏ Softshell Ski Pants - Breathable, Weather Resistant for Fair Weather; OR Trailbreaker II
❏ Vented Hardshell Ski Pants - Waterproof Pants for Extreme Weather; Flylow Compound
Food and Water
❏ Nalgene Water Bottle - Hard Sided Bottle; Nalgene 16oz-32oz Wide Mouth Bottle
❏ Soft Water Bottle 1.5L - Flexible Water Bladder; Hydrapak Flux 1.5L
***Please bring at least one hard sided water bottle.
❏ Snacks - Enough Snacks for the Day. There will be no lunch break so snacks must be
convenient and easy to eat.
❏ Sun Screen (SPF 30 minimum)
❏ Lip Balm (with SPF)
❏ Hand Sanitizer
❏ Toilet Paper
❏ First Aid/blister Kit
❏ Chemical Hand Warmers
❏ Hydration System - Flexible Water Bladder with Hose; Hydrapak, Camelback, Platypus
Blackbird Mountain Guides will supply all of the group gear for the trip, including:
✓ Guide’s First Aid Kits
✓ Wag Bags (Solid Human Waste Disposal Bags)
✓ Snow Observation Equipment (Snowsaws, Loops, Crystal Cards, Etc)
Know Before You Go
North Lake Tahoe, CA
The Blackbird AIARE 2 is of moderate physical difficulty, but requires skiing off piste terrain proficiently. This program will also involve mental focus and the ability to absorb the course content.
Two Days plus Online Coursework and Pre-Trip Webinar
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