Level 1 Professional

AIARE Avalanche Level 1 Professional

Hut Based Level 1 Avalanche Course w/ Additional Backcountry Skills Day

We have designed our 4 day  Level 1 Professional Avalanche Course for the recreational backcountry enthusiast, or prospective ski guide, who would like to gain all the knowledge and experience from our standard Level 1 Course but also wants to gain added ski touring experience in the backcountry. This course is ideal for both those who do not see themselves enrolling in a Level 2 Course in the near future and want to solidify their backcountry skiing and group leadership skills, as well as those who want to gain more comprehensive preparation in anticipation of taking the Level 2 course.

The hut-based atmosphere provides participants with expanded learning opportunities by virtue of evenings with your guides/instructors, and the 4th day allows for a more thorough and focused application of all the skills acquired on the previous three days. The cozy confines of either the Aladdin’s Lamp Hut (situated atop Molas Pass at almost 11,000 feet) – and for the 14/15 season – The Mountain Belle Hut, or the Artist’s Cabin (both situated in the Red Mountain Pass area with impeccable access to backcountry skiing terrain) makes for the perfect trip logistics and itinerary.

Level 2 Avalanche Course

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

We view this course as the perfect combination of our Intro to Backcountry Skiing Course with a Level 1. This course is also an excellent precursor to our Ski Mountaineering Courses or programs in Alaska or Europe. In addtition to the standard elements of our  Level 1, this course will also cover additional backcountry skiing techniques including:

  • Trip and Tour planning
  • Route-finding and planning
  • GPS and whiteout navigation techniques
  • Team travel protocol
  • Essential Backcountry Equipment
  • Ascension Techniques and Uphill Track Setting
  • Powder snow skiing techniques
  • Rescue and evacuation considerations

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.

I especially enjoyed the small class size in the classroom, and in the field. The instructor, Aaron Ball, was very personable, thorough, and professional. I am planning on continuing on with the Level 2 course this coming winter, and strongly recommend the Level 1 course and SJMG to my friends and clients, who pursue and are planning on pursing activities in avalanche country. – Joe S.


Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

Level 1 pro 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 drive up to the hut and complete the day’s classes. 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. Stay at hut.

Day 4

Field Session, 0800-1600. Today we will complete another full tour in the Silverton/Red Mountain Pass area. Students will be asked to take turns leading the group, setting the uphilll track, and managing the ski descent. We’ll finish with a mock rescue utilizing backcountry gear.

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: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp
  • 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

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.

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/Trained Guides
  • Level 1 course manual and completion certificate
  • AIARE Field Book
  • 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
  • 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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