Private Avalanche Education Courses
To fit your group’s needs
Do our scheduled courses not fit your needs? Have a group of 6 or more? Want custom dates? Want to spend a few days in a backcountry ski hut and gain your AIARE certification at the same time? Go private!
San Juan Mountain Guides has been offering formal avalanche courses since 1992. We have taught hundreds of backcountry skiers and snowboarders as well as mountain guides and ski patrollers needing to meet industry requirements. In recent years, great achievements have been made with curriculum development. Combined with our many years of teaching experience this has helped us to bring you the most sophisticated and useful classroom presentations and field instruction to best help decision making while in avalanche terrain.
The snowpack of the San Juan Mountains between Durango and Ouray, CO provides the ideal location to conduct our field training sessions. The San Juan Mountains are known throughout the world for the complicated nature of the snowpack and readily observable avalanche conditions and phenomenon. They truly define the meaning of a continental snowpack.
Some girlfriends and myself decided to take an Avy 1 Class to prepare ourselves for some backcountry turns. We were recommended San Juan Mountain Guides and were not let down! These guys do a great job of introducing newbies, such as myself, to the potential dangers of backcountry travel and to the fun possibilities of educated decision making. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone who is looking to travel high in the winter! – Laura P.
The SJMG Difference
Our AIARE Avalanche Courses are taught by highly experienced professional ski and mountain guides as well as avalanche consultants. All of our lead instructors are Certified Level 3 AIARE course graduates and have also completed AMGA Ski Guide and AIARE instructor training courses. For years, they have been making difficult decisions in managing groups through challenging backcounty terrain in complex snowpack conditions.As guides first and foremost, they have great experience in understanding the complex dynamics of the many important variables including the important human factor elements that affect good and bad decisions in hazardous avalanche terrain. As professional guides they are passionate about sharing with you the focus of avalanche awareness as part of the quality of experience the snow in the San Juans has to offer.
We are The Local Experts. No other guide service in the San Juan Mountains can combine our knowledge of the San Juan snowpack and ability to access all the terrain in the Red Mountain Pass area with our AMGA Certified professional mountain guides and instructors. Join us on a course and experience the difference for yourself.
Backcountry Skiing Equipment List
- Day-tour backpack: Internal frame, 25-40 liters. Guides’ pick: BCA Float 32
- Touring skis or splitboard and boots: Skis with alpine-touring or telemark bindings (or splitboard). Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Revert w/ Dynafit bindings
- Skins: for aforementioned skis
- Avalanche Transceiver: Guides’ pick: BCA Tracker 2
- Avy shovel: metal blade is a must
- Socks: Wool or synthetic ski socks
- Base layers: Polyester or silk bottom and top
- Mid-weight top : Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Shell pants: hard shell or soft shell. A pair with side vents are best. Guides’ pick: OR TrailBreaker
- Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Furio
- Gloves: a pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium weight gloves
- Down jacket: optional, but nice to have
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: optional, but nice to have
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; with bottle insulators. Guides’ pick: Nalgene
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
Participants will need to have an established method of backcountry travel for field days (skis or splitboard with skins, or snowshoes). These courses take place outside in winter conditions. All participants need to be prepared for physical exertion in cold and perhaps poor weather. Participants will need to have appropriate warm, winter clothing and gear.
1Before Your Trip
Skiing and/or squats: do it. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.
2Follow Up Programs
I enjoyed being in the company of our instructors. It was an educational experience just watching them in their element. They rocked. Also, it was great to be hands-on in the field for 2 days; learning experimentally is the kicker for this and all technical skill courses. Getting ski beta and seeing terrain that I can go ski anytime was a great plus. This course seemed to also focus on the application for avy knowledge for the backcountry skier………Yes! – Taylor H.
Durango, Colorado: Getting Here
Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 3 hours
Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
- Cost Includes:
- AIARE Qualified Instructors and AMGA Certified/Trained Guides
- Level 1 course manual and completion certificate
- AIARE Field Book
- Use of avalanche probe, shovel, and beacon
- Touring boots, skis, and climbing skins are available for rent from our shop for an additional cost.
- Not Included:
- Hotel costs before, during or after the courses
- 5% land use surcharge
- trip cancellation insurance
- personal climbing, skiing, or camping equipment, or gratuities.
- Instructor gratuity
- Field lunches
- Registration and Cancellation:
- You will need to fill out our Domestic Registration Form, cancellation policy agreement, and liability waiver, and send it to us with a 50% deposit as early as possible prior to the course date. Balance is due on the first day of the course. Please click on our Registration/Travel link to access the required forms.