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Mapping the Top 11 Avalanche Classes for Adventure Seekers

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Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is booming, and more skiers than ever are taking advantage of better touring gear to venture further than ever before. Whether skinning from the trailhead or skiing through a resort gate, all backcountry excursions come with risk, but taking an avalanche education course can help you make better decisions and provide hands-on experience. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) is the gold standard for avalanche education curriculum, and there are plenty of places you can go to do the coursework and field training. However, if you want to mix education with a little adventure, this list is for you. Curbed Ski sifted through the providers offering AIARE Level 1 (the introductory course) training to bring you the best options. From women-specific courses to mini-backcountry hut vacations, we've got something for everyone.

Please note the providers are listed from west to east. Prices are for AIARE Level 1 courses, and most include the use of avalanche equipment (pole, shovel and beacon) but require you to bring your own touring gear. Lodging only included when mentioned.


-By Michael Schrantz

· The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education [Official site]
· Scout's Sarah Plaskitt Wants to Change the World of Ski Travel [Curbed Ski]
· Powder & Thrills Await at This Undiscovered, Exotic Ski Area [Curbed Ski]
· Honoring Colorado's 10th Mountain Division [Curbed Ski]
· Sleek, Eco Alpine Hut Could Save Your Life in the Backcountry [Curbed Ski]

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1. Alaska Avalanche School

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1025 Orca Street
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 345-0878
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Alaska Avalanche School offers a number of avalanche courses as well as new option for a hut-based trip at the Manitoba Cabin near Turnagain Pass in Southcentral Alaska. Cost: $425

2. Backcountry Babes

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514 5th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 729-5046
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Backcountry Babes is one of the few women-specific options for avalanche education. They offer Level 1 courses in Anchorage, Alaska, and Breckenridge. The San Francisco-based company organizes trips across the Western United States and Canada, as well. Cost: $375

3. Three Sisters Backcountry

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Deschutes National Forest, 412 East Main Avenue
Sisters, OR 97759
(541) 549-8101
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Three Sisters Backcountry courses include two nights in a backcountry hut, but students provide their own meals. Snowmobiles are there to help with the portage in and out. Cost: $490

4. Cascade Powder Cats

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138 Birch Street
Leavenworth, WA 98826
(206) 629-2329
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Cascade Powder Cats offers yurt-based courses and ones starting from Leavenworth, Wash. Both courses include lodging and plenty of on-snow time. Cost: $475 to $495

5. Sierra Mountain Center

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200 South Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
(760) 873-8526
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This course doesn't have the amenities of some of the other trips, but Sierra Mountain Center will make you a reservation at a nearby environmental research center for your Eastern Sierra adventure. Cost: $395

6. Sawtooth Mountain Guides

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Salmon - Challis National Forest, Niece Avenue
Stanley, ID 83278
(208) 774-3324
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Sadly, the dates for Sawtooth Mountain Guides' Williams Peak Hut avalanche course have come and gone for this year, but if you get four or five of your buddies together, you can schedule a private course, according to their website. Cost: $475

7. Peak Mountain Guides

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Uncompahgre National Forest, 280 7th Avenue
Ouray, CO 81427
(970) 325-7342
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This hut-based course adds a fourth day for even more time to practice what you've learned. Peak Mountain Guides also limits enrollment to only six students so everyone gets personalized treatment. Cost: $699

8. Irwin Guides

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330 Belleview Avenue
Crested Butte, CO 81224
(970) 349-5430
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Crested Butte-based Irwin Guides uses the well-appointed Maroon Hut in Gothic, Colo., for this three-day course. Cost: $550

9. Aspen Alpine Guides

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210 South Galena Street
Aspen, CO 81611
(970) 925-6618
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Aspen Alpine Guides uses the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut in the popular 10th Mountain Division Hut System for this three-day course, giving you hands-on training in a backcountry destination you'll probably want to visit again. Cost: $375

10. Petra Cliffs Mountaineering School

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105 Briggs Street
Burlington, VT 05401
(802) 657-3872
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Petra Cliffs conducts a typical three-day avalanche course but also lets students add on a day or two of guided skiing for extra practice. Cost: $355 plus $115 per extra day

11. Acadia Mountain Guides

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92 Main Street
Orono, ME 04473
(207) 288-8186
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Acadia Mountain Guides offers courses in Maine and New Hampshire in addition to a Level 1 class and ski trip to the Chic-Choc Mountains in Quebec, Canada. Cost: $295 to $700

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1. Alaska Avalanche School

1025 Orca Street, Anchorage, AK 99501

Alaska Avalanche School offers a number of avalanche courses as well as new option for a hut-based trip at the Manitoba Cabin near Turnagain Pass in Southcentral Alaska. Cost: $425

1025 Orca Street
Anchorage, AK 99501

2. Backcountry Babes

514 5th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118

Backcountry Babes is one of the few women-specific options for avalanche education. They offer Level 1 courses in Anchorage, Alaska, and Breckenridge. The San Francisco-based company organizes trips across the Western United States and Canada, as well. Cost: $375

514 5th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118

3. Three Sisters Backcountry

Deschutes National Forest, 412 East Main Avenue, Sisters, OR 97759

Three Sisters Backcountry courses include two nights in a backcountry hut, but students provide their own meals. Snowmobiles are there to help with the portage in and out. Cost: $490

Deschutes National Forest, 412 East Main Avenue
Sisters, OR 97759

4. Cascade Powder Cats

138 Birch Street, Leavenworth, WA 98826

Cascade Powder Cats offers yurt-based courses and ones starting from Leavenworth, Wash. Both courses include lodging and plenty of on-snow time. Cost: $475 to $495

138 Birch Street
Leavenworth, WA 98826

5. Sierra Mountain Center

200 South Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514

This course doesn't have the amenities of some of the other trips, but Sierra Mountain Center will make you a reservation at a nearby environmental research center for your Eastern Sierra adventure. Cost: $395

200 South Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514

6. Sawtooth Mountain Guides

Salmon - Challis National Forest, Niece Avenue, Stanley, ID 83278

Sadly, the dates for Sawtooth Mountain Guides' Williams Peak Hut avalanche course have come and gone for this year, but if you get four or five of your buddies together, you can schedule a private course, according to their website. Cost: $475

Salmon - Challis National Forest, Niece Avenue
Stanley, ID 83278

7. Peak Mountain Guides

Uncompahgre National Forest, 280 7th Avenue, Ouray, CO 81427

This hut-based course adds a fourth day for even more time to practice what you've learned. Peak Mountain Guides also limits enrollment to only six students so everyone gets personalized treatment. Cost: $699

Uncompahgre National Forest, 280 7th Avenue
Ouray, CO 81427

8. Irwin Guides

330 Belleview Avenue, Crested Butte, CO 81224

Crested Butte-based Irwin Guides uses the well-appointed Maroon Hut in Gothic, Colo., for this three-day course. Cost: $550

330 Belleview Avenue
Crested Butte, CO 81224

9. Aspen Alpine Guides

210 South Galena Street, Aspen, CO 81611

Aspen Alpine Guides uses the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut in the popular 10th Mountain Division Hut System for this three-day course, giving you hands-on training in a backcountry destination you'll probably want to visit again. Cost: $375

210 South Galena Street
Aspen, CO 81611

10. Petra Cliffs Mountaineering School

105 Briggs Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Petra Cliffs conducts a typical three-day avalanche course but also lets students add on a day or two of guided skiing for extra practice. Cost: $355 plus $115 per extra day

105 Briggs Street
Burlington, VT 05401

11. Acadia Mountain Guides

92 Main Street, Orono, ME 04473

Acadia Mountain Guides offers courses in Maine and New Hampshire in addition to a Level 1 class and ski trip to the Chic-Choc Mountains in Quebec, Canada. Cost: $295 to $700

92 Main Street
Orono, ME 04473