PRACTICAL AND CURRENT CURRICULUM:
AAI has been teaching avalanche courses since the winter of 1973/1974. Our curriculum has been evolving for over 40 years and is built on a foundation of snow science AND practical application. The focus is to provide students with useful, applicable information for use in the field. AAI spends 60% of each course in the field, focusing on hands-on learning, coaching, and supervised decision-making using the AAI Backcountry Checklist. 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.
All of our instructors are currently practicing their craft professionally. Whether they perform snow safety work at ski resorts, guide on major peaks, or forecasting for transportation/industry, your AAI instructors are professionals in the industry.
AAI believes it to be essential to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. Our Level One courses start with more teaching and role modeling by instructors. By the end of those courses, students are asked to put all the new material together to make their own supervised decisions. Level Two courses expand on the knowledge gained from Level One and the experience gained between the two courses. Students are asked to make more route-finding choices, snow stability assessments, and group management decisions. Throughout the course, students are coached by instructors on their assessment and decision-making skills. They are provided with useable tools in the field that can help guide observation and decision-making, as well as communication. The Level Three course is an evaluated course, but the coaching and teaching is still a prominent part of the course. Students will make more decisions on their own, but the instructors will be there to facilitate decisions (as needed), refine techniques/assessments, and ultimately as a safety net if conditions change more quickly than the students realize. The name of the game is EDUCATION – our instructors are adept at allowing students to make real decisions, coaching along the way, and keeping a big enough picture in mind such that students aren’t thrown into situations beyond their experience or training.
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 generations, different professional backgrounds, and different personalities. A very 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 makes for a great educational experience.
AAI holds courses in mountainous environments. Courses usually 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 regime. Earlier season often holds more instabilities in most ranges, but lingering instabilities may exist throughout our operating season. 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, recognize snow, weather and terrain hazards and manage travel safely and effectively. Our staff have 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 Level 2 & Level 3 are recognized by the AMGA. AAI’s Level 3 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
All 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.