How Avalanche Educators Are Gearing Up for a Busy Backcountry Season

November 24, 2020

Online learning is only part of the answer.

Jackson, WY, November 24, 2020 – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ski industry professionals are predicting this could be the busiest backcountry season to date. Combine this with the lack of knowledge about the serious consequences that exist outside the resort boundaries, and avalanche educators like Sarah Carpenter, lead avalanche instructor, and co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute (AAI) are worried about what’s to come. “We still believe it is essential to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities and time in the field with an instructor,” says Sarah, “however, we also want to offer other educational opportunities to those new to the sport or wanting to refresh their knowledge early season, in a manner where that is accessible and affordable, and limits exposure to others during this time.”

As the oldest avalanche education school in the U.S., with over 70 instructors, AAI has been teaching both recreational and professional avalanche courses since 1973. Over the past 6 months, the team at AAI has adapted their course curriculum with COVID-19 safety measures in mind. This season, many participants will complete their classroom training online, and then attend a field course. In addition, AAI has also developed both introductory and refresher online courses. For those new to backcountry travel, start with their Avalanche Fundamentals course. Already taken your Avalanche Level 1 or Level 2 course? Take the online refresher course most appropriate for your level of education.

“In these unprecedented times, we have to adapt quickly,” says AAI co-owner Don Sharaf, who has spent the past 25 years teaching avalanche and mountaineering courses. “The sale of backcountry gear has continued to skyrocket. Shops are selling out of touring skis, splitboards, boots, and bindings, with little to no avalanche education provided with purchase. Traveling safely in the backcountry not only involves getting the gear and knowing how to use it. Individuals need to be able to read and interpret avalanche forecasts, understand snow science and group dynamics. If an avalanche occurs, your backcountry touring partners will be first on the scene. Not ski patrol or search and rescue. I have been around long enough to see the value of continuing education and remaining humble in the face of the dragon.”


The American Avalanche Institute (AAI) offers avalanche education courses for new and experienced skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and snowboarders, as well as industry professionals. Each course is built on a foundation of snow science and decades of practical application, and more information can be found at https://www.americanavalancheinstitute.com/