Blackbird AIARE 1
The Blackbird AIARE 1 is a unique program developed by Blackbird Mountain Guides. It is your key to assessing and managing avalanche hazard as well as finding high quality snow. As you move into tackling bigger tours, higher peaks and the greater ranges of the world, you'll have insight into what's happening on and under the surface of the snow so that you can understand what danger exists, how to avoid it, and where to find the best turns.
The Blackbird program provides you with a full AIARE 1 (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) certificate and introduces the fundamentals of weather, snow, route planning, human dynamics and avalanche terrain and small team rescue. It's unique benefits over other avalanche programs include:
- Flexibility for your busy lifestyle. Say goodbye to taking off work or missing a great ski day to sit in a classroom. You get the coursework done at your own pace before the field work starts!
- Excellent Online Content. Our online course includes content curated by our expert staff and a live webinar with a Blackbird Avalanche Course Leader.
- Access to the Lessons after the course. Everyone comes out of traditional avalanche courses feeling full of knowledge, but two weeks later they begin scratching their heads, wondering what they had discussed and learned during their course. With the Blackbird A1, you always have access to the online program to review the lessons whenever you feel the need to brush up.
- Top notch AIARE Avalanche Course Leaders. Our course leaders are some of Tahoe's most experienced snow experts and instructors. We have lived and breathed the Tahoe snowpack (thankfully not literally) and have years of experience guiding, performing avalanche control at Class A ski resorts and instructing courses.
Understanding the avalanche phenomenon is a lifelong pursuit and the Blackbird AIARE 1 lays the foundation for gathering information and using it to plan successful tours and build experience. This course is paramount to not only understanding risk in avalanche terrain, but how to find amazing snow.
This is not a “first backcountry skiing course.” If this is your first time backcountry skiing, please visit Introduction to Backcountry Skiing, a perfect course for beginners that will teach you to use your gear, expose you to “wild snow” as we find it outside the world of ski resorts, and provide you with lessons and coaching on techniques for skinning and backcountry skiing movement. We expect all participants on the Blackbird AIARE 1 to be proficient with their gear and basic ski touring movement. There is a lot of material to cover during this program and we want to maximize the experience for each participant.
The topics that will be covered are:
The Avalanche Problems
Human Factors and Assembling your Team
Trailhead Departure Check
Blackbird AIARE 1 is for backcountry riders looking to assess avalanche risk, improve their decision making during tours and become a backcountry partner. Riders who have skied for years in the backcountry often remark “I wish I had taken this course years ago!” It is an excellent way to solidify concepts that are often hazy, even after years of riding the backcountry.
This course is great for novices and experienced backcountry users alike, but we do require that you:
- Are Proficient at Using Your Gear. If you are not, consider taking the Introduction to Backcountry Skiing, an excellent way to gain a basic understanding of ski touring.
- Can ride Advanced Terrain at a ski resort. The course venue may be in fairly benign terrain, but it is important that riders have an advanced riding ability to manage the highly variable snow conditions we experience in the backcountry. These conditions are typically very different from those found at ski resorts, even in off-piste resort terrain.
- 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, quick-draw style)
Prices$495 per person
The Blackbird A1 is a full AIARE Avalanche Program, 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 course, 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 AIARE 1, 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.
Field Day 1: Avalanche Rescue and Field Observations
8:00 am Meet your guide and review the plan for the day. The guide will discuss the avalanche problem for the day, the proposed route up and options for the ascent and descent. The guide will conduct a Trailhead Departure Check/Beacon Check.
8:30 am Tour to a zone where we can make snowpack observations pertinent to the current avalanche problem, including a Snow Pit.
12:30 pm Tour to a zone that is appropriate for practicing small team avalanche rescue.
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.
Field Day 2: Ski Tour with Avalanche Observations and Decision Making
8:00 am We’ll meet at the trailhead for our objective and students will lead us through the weather overnight and forecast for the day, the current avalanche advisory, our route plan and options, an emergency action plan and perform the trailhead beacon check.
Throughout the day we will practice the skills that we’ve learned throughout the program in real time to execute our tour in good style. We’ll practice gathering observations, prioritizing information and making decisions with our teams.
- 3:30 pm We’ll regroup at the trailhead to debrief the tour and discuss the lessons of the day. Then we will close out the program by providing some guidance on good choices for your next steps in avalanche education and ski touring progression.
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 A1 is moderate physical difficulty, but requires skiing off piste terrain proficiently. You will also need a lot of focused mental energy to absorb the course content.
Two Days plus Online Coursework and Pre-Trip Webinar
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