What makes the Blackbird AIARE 1 Course different?

A large avalanche pouring down the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter in the Alaska Range.  Photo credit Zeb Blais / Blackbird Mountain Guides


When Blackbird Mountain Guides built our acclaimed AIARE avalanche courses, we set out redefine how avalanche education was taught in Lake Tahoe.  We took decades of experience in avalanche education and snow safety and asked ourselves how can we could improve AIARE avalanche courses.  Our goal was to make the material easier to absorb so that students would have a deeper understanding of the snowpack, weather and human factors that can increase the hazards of backcountry skiing. With better preparation and knowledge, we knew that the skiers and riders who took our course could make better decisions in avalanche terrain.

Ski touring during a Blackbird AIARE 1 Program the central Sierra Nevada, Truckee, CA.

Understanding how people learn. 

AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) courses are packed with information.  The layering of the mountain snowpack, metamorphism of snow grains, snowpack tests, human factors, weather observations, terrain identification are all deep subjects that can take time to understand in their own rights.  Most participants arrive to their Avalanche Level 1 course with minimal familiarity with these concepts.  With a huge amount of information to process all at once, students can feel overwhelmed or have a hard time absorbing the information.  We found that participants weren’t getting as much as they could from standard, PowerPoint based AIARE courses.  Cramming many textbooks worth of content into a single day of classroom presentations wasn't working!

Building the Blackbird AIARE 1 online course. 

We wanted a course that would allow participants to process the material from our program at their own speed. What we needed was an online course.  This would allow our students to take the lessons when it was convenient for them, without having to take a day or more off of work.  This also meant that people taking our program would be able to review the material as much as they wanted before and after the field sessions to further drive the lessons home.  

Adhering to the principals and curriculum of AIARE, we designed our online course to be organized, easy to use and to allow participants to work through the material at their own pace.  To ensure participants fully understand the concepts, we added quizzes and exercises we added quizzes and exercises throughout the course material.  The result was the Blackbird AIARE 1 Online Course.

 Putting knowledge gained from the Blackbird AIARE 1 avalanche course to good use in the Tahoe backcountry.

Leveraging our experienced AIARE instructor team. 

We knew that interaction between instructors and students would be instrumental to reinforce the concepts from the Blackbird online course.  We structure our live, two hour webinars to be focused, organized and engaging to make sure that they are as concise and valuable as possible. This is a critical way to review and expand key concepts. We're also able to confirm comprehension by posing questions and working through exercises with participants.  This space also provides an opportunity for participants to ask pertinent questions before getting into the field. 

Our webinar is unique because we’re not trying to teach involved lessons from scratch.  We’re simply building on concepts that have already been introduced, and we’re interacting with participants, rather than subjecting them to long-winded online lectures.

A group digging a snow pit and performing snowpack tests during a Blackbird Mountain Guides AIARE avalanche education course.

Blackbird AIARE field sessions.  

Once again, we leaned on the experience of our instructor team to make our field instruction stand out.  During pre season Blackbird Guide’s training we evaluated each instructor and shared valuable insights from each instructor’s years of guiding, teaching and professional development.  With a focus on concise and well planned lessons, we distilled the most effective exercises and teaching techniques for the field.  Devotion to quality instruction makes our courses stand out and raises our instructor team above instructors who don't have the benefit of intense peer reviews like ours.  Hands-on experience in the field is the most important part of fostering sound decision-making in avalanche terrain and we’re committed to getting it right!

So, what makes the Blackbird AIARE 1 avalanche course different?  Here are the secrets to the success of our unique program:

  1. Full Online Course designed and built by Blackbird Mountain Guides
  2. Expert instructor team with decades of experience teaching AIARE curriculum.  Our instructors are AIARE and AMGA trained.
  3. Blackbird webinars are live, engaging and interactive.  They are not a boring classroom lecture moved online.
  4. Devotion to the highest quality field instruction trough instructor training and idea sharing between the team.

Looking for an Avalanche Rescue Course?  Read why our AIARE Rescue Courses are leading the way in avalanche rescue education.