Level 1 Hut Based

Level 1 Hut Based Avalanche Course

Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain

Ski Touring from the Hut

Why not enjoy the comforts of a high mountain hut, surrounded by the pristine wilderness of Colorado’s majestic San Juan Mountains, while also completing the curriculum of our  Level 1 Course? Throw in food and you’ve got yourself one heck of a trip!

This 3 day, 2 night program covers all the material of our Level 1 avvy course from the cozy confines of either the Aladdin’s Lamp (situated atop Molas Pass at almost 11,000 feet) – and for the 14/15 season – The Mountain Belle, or the Artist’s Cabin (both situated in the Red Mountain Pass area with impeccable access to backcountry skiing terrain).

With skiing right out the door it’s tough to beat access for our field sessions and the evenings at the hut provide additional opportunities for students to cover essential course material with our instructors. This is a can’t miss course that also features a smaller class size of 7 students maximum! Want to squeeze in some additional backcountry skiing and more in-depth touring and decision making skills? Then make it a Professional Level 1!

The SJMG Difference

We know that you have many choices when selecting where and with whom to take your Level 1 Avalanche Course. When considering these factors, keep in mind the following facts when making your decision. San Juan Mountain Guides has been offering formal avalanche courses since 1992. Our program and course curriculum has been meticulously customized by AMGA Certified Ski Mtn/IFMGA Guides and former Ski/Snow Patrol Professionals. We offer the most comprehensive access to terrain in the San Juan Mountains – from the Sneffels Range to both the North and South sides of Red Mountain Pass and all the way to Coal Bank Pass. No other guide service or avalanche school in the region can offer this variety of terrain as part of their program.

AVY Course Comparisons SJMG Others
22 Years of Experience YES ???
Customized by IFMGA/AMGA Ski Mtn Guides YES ???
Developed by Ski/Snow Patrol Pros YES ???
Taught by IFMGA/AMGA Ski Mtn Guides YES ???
Unlimited Terrain Access in San Juans YES ???
Course Options in Durango & Ouray YES ???
BC Skiing Components Taught YES ???
Hut Based Course Options YES ???

The Curriculum

This is a comprehensive course for those new to travel in avalanche terrain. Highlights include a small class size, professional level curriculum, and skier/snowboarder oriented instruction. Participants in the Level 1 Course can expect a minimum of about 8 hours of classroom instruction and about 16 hours of field instruction in the following subjects:

Avalanche in the San Juans
  • Types of avalanches
  • Characteristics of avalanches
  • How avalanches form and release
  • Assessing avalanche terrain
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Route Finding
  • Decision making
  • Rescue protocols and procedures

We meet at 0800 on the first day and spend a full day in the classroom learning terminology and general avalanche principles. The following two days are spent in the field between Coal Bank and Red Mountain Passes.

Your professionalism, personability, and overall excitement for the course was why I chose (you) over a course in Ketchum ID. Great work! – Jody D.


Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

level 1 hut Itinerary

Day 1

Classroom day. Meet at our office at 0800 to finalize course paperwork. The group will then begin the classroom portion of the class. This will serve as a complete introduction to the course. There will be a 1 hour lunch and then the group will transfer to Molas Pass and the Alladins Lamp Hut. An afternoon field session rounds out the day. Stay at hut.

Day 2

Field session, 0800-1700. Today we will spend the entire day in the field on Molas Pass. Topics covered will include test pit construction, beacon searching, companion rescue. Instructors will demonstrate each topic and then students will practice under observation. Stay at hut.

Day 3

Field session, 0800-1700. Today we will complete a tour on Red Mountain Pass. Students will be asked to make decisions with regard to route finding, and terrain management. We’ll select a slope to ski and assess the stability of the slope for descent purposes.

Backcountry Skiing Equipment List

  • Day-Tour Backpack: Internal frame, 25-40 liters.
  • Touring Skis or Splitboard :Skis with alpine-touring or telemark bindings (or splitboard).
  • Ski or Snowboard Boots
  • Poles: Preferably adjustable
  • Climbing Skins
  • Avalanche Transceiver with fresh batteries
  • Probe
  • Avy Shovel: metal blade is a must
  • Goggles
  • Ski Helmet
  • Ski Repair Kit


  • Socks: Wool or synthetic ski socks
  • Base Layers: Polyester, wool 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.
  • Insulated vest: down or synthetic for extra core warmth.
  • Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation.
  • Gloves: a pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium to thin weight gloves.
  • Down jacket or Insulated Parka
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: optional, but nice to have
  • Sunglasses

Other Stuff

  • Sleeping Bag: for use on beds at hut
  • Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water Bottles: 2 liters
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  • Headlamp: with extra batteries
  • Toiletries
  • Personal First Aid Kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch Food & Snacks: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
  • Hut Clothes, Booties/ Slippers
  • Duffel or additional backpack: if your hut necessities will not fit in your touring backpack


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

In order to successfully carry a 35 lb. pack up to 7 miles a day, endurance is key. 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.

View Larger Map

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 suit you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.


Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:
  • AIARE Qualified Instructors and AMGA Certified Guides
  • Level 1 course manual and completion certificate
  • Use of avalanche probe, shovel, and beacon
  • Lodging fees at the Alladin’s Lamp Hut
  • Breakfasts and dinners at the hut
  • Transportation to the hut
  • 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
  • AIARE Field Notebook
  • 5% land use surcharge
  • trip cancellation insurance
  • personal climbing, skiing, or camping equipment, or gratuities.
  • Instructor gratuity
  • Field lunches

  • Registration and Cancellation:
  • Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.

Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

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