Practical and Current Curriculum
AAI’s focus is to provide students with useful, applicable information for use in the field. AAI spends at least 60% of most courses in the field, focusing on hands-on learning, coaching, and supervised decision-making using the AAI Backcountry Checklist. AAI has built online learning materials for each course that compliments field work and allows students to arrive to the field sessions set up for success.
We have been teaching avalanche courses since the winter of 1973/1974 and our curriculum is built on a foundation of snow science AND practical application. AAI teaches courses to beginning recreationists, introducing basic concepts for avalanche hazard mitigation and travel techniques in avalanche terrain, as well as to industry professionals – including ski guides, ski patrollers, and avalanche forecasters. The AAI curriculum is a progression, where each course builds on knowledge gained from the previous course.
AAI believes it to be essential to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. Courses start with coaching and role modeling by instructors, and by the end of these courses, students are asked to put all the new material together to make their own supervised decisions. The name of the game is EDUCATION – our instructors are adept at allowing students to make appropriate real decisions, coaching them in the classroom and the field, and re-enforcing a systematic approach to backcountry travel.
Our instructors are talented educators, in addition to being professional ski guides, snow safety personnel, and avalanche forecasters. Our instructors work in the snow all winter long, tracking the weather and the avalanche cycles throughout the season. Each course is staffed with instructors from different professional backgrounds, and different personalities. A common comment on the end of course evaluations is that the instructor team complemented one another very well. In short, the diversity of experience coupled with the amount of experience in the avalanche industry of our staff makes for a great educational experience.
AAI holds courses in mountainous environments. Many courses start out below treeline, but often ascend into the alpine zone. Conditions at the upper elevations are similar to any big mountain environment, and training in the Tetons, Wasatch, Bridgers, and Madison Range will set the students up well for travel in avalanche terrain around the world. On any given year, the course areas could have a very stable “maritime”-like snow climate, or a very unstable “continental”–like snowpack.
Regardless of the current avalanche hazard, students will learn how to read and interpret the avalanche bulletin, to use the AAI Backcountry Checklist, to foster effective communication in a group, to recognize snow, weather and terrain hazards and manage travel in the backcountry. Our staff has run courses throughout North America and travelled in avalanche terrain around the world. AAI has run courses internationally and all over the U.S. and continues to run custom courses in all snow climates on a yearly basis.
American Mountain Guides Association Recognition
The American Avalanche Institute Pro Level 1 & Pro Level 2 are recognized by the AMGA. AAI’s Pro Level 2 course was audited by an AMGA representative in January 2009. Many of AAI’s instructors are AMGA ski mountaineering certified and many others are working towards this certification.
Our AMGA recognition is another example of AAI’s commitment to excellence in education and our willingness to do the hard work necessary to fulfill that commitment.
American Avalanche Association Membership
Most of our instructors are professional Members of the American Avalanche Association, which indicates that they have been active in the avalanche industry for a minimum of four years. In addition, many of our staff are AAA Certified Instructors indicating that they have 10 or more seasons of running avalanche courses. Certifications don’t make the instructor, but they are at least an indication that the staff didn’t just learn about avalanches last year and are teaching that curriculum this year.