Vail Backcountry Skiing

AIARE Level 1 Hut Based

Learn the decision-making skills necessary to evaluate and travel in avalanche terrain in a 2 night hut-based AIARE Level 1 with Apex Mountain School.


  • Hut-Based Avy Course:
  • Feb 6-8, 2018:   Approx 3 SPOTS LEFT
  • Feb 26-28, 2018 Approx 3 SPOTS LEFT
  • also available by private - call for info and booking


9-9.5 hours a day, 3 days total.


  • Private hut


  • Cost is for full course, including hut rental and any land use fees.
  • 595 per person for full course.


Two of Five

Experience Level

Intermediate +

Avalanche risk is an ever present danger in the mountainous backcountry of the Colorado Rockies.  Accurate terrain assessment, a strong knowledge of the different risks involved with avalanches, and proper preparation are all important steps to reducing those risks for backcountry travelers.  APEX Mountain School hosts The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) which provides a world-class education, with the only internationally recognized curriculum offered in the United States.  Reduce your risk in the backcountry by growing your knowledge and skill set, while relaxing and socializing in our private wilderness hut for 2 nights.  In your AIARE level 1 hut course, our curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of:

  • the characteristics and types of avalanches
  • movement of avalanches
  • classifications by size and danger scale
  • mountain snowpack: metamorphism and layering

As well, we’ll discuss:

  • trip planning and preparation
  • risk management and decision-making
  • human influence in group dynamics, decision-making and accidents

Following classroom sessions, we’ll travel by backcountry ski, split board and snowshoe, and apply these learned foundations in a mountain snow environment, with a focus on:

  • Beacon and probe use
  • Identifying and evaluating avalanche terrain
  • Route-finding and travel techniques
  • Snow pit and snow layer analysis and tests
  • What questions to ask in risk evaluation
  • Identifying “red flags”
  • Avalanche rescue and beacon search techniques

Our hut location is near Leadville, in a rustic setting. You will stay with others in a comfortable cabin, outfitted with oil lamps (provided), kitchen essentials (propane stove and oven, as well as a coldbox), a woodburning stove also used to melt snow for water for drinking, dishes, etc., and a composting toilet. You are responsible for providing your own food. We recommend calorically-dense, low-sodium foods that travel well and don’t require much prep.

Some of the items that have been popular are listed below, but please keep in mind that this is simply a list to use as a resource, and not meant to be comprehensive or a reference for necessities.

  • Some ideas include:
  • Breakfast: Oatmeal, nuts, seeds, dried fruits
  • Snacks: Dried fruit, cheese sticks, crackers, trail mix, beef jerky, granola bars
  • Lunch: Sandwiches, peanut butter, honey, tortillas, cheese sticks
  • Dinner: Quick rice meals using hot water, pasta, dehydrated meals (be aware of sodium if it’s a concern), tortillas with cheese, pepperoni for stovetop pizzas,
  • Also: Tea, coffee (pour-over or instant), dried milk for cream

Wherever you go for your avalanche training, accept no substitute for the standard in course curriculum, AIAIRE avalanche courses. Looking for more course dates?  Check out our Vail Mountain Lift Accessed AIARE Level 1 page for more courses. Prerequisites: Participants should be prepared to travel in backcountry terrain (by ski or split board, snowshoe if no other option) in potentially inclement weather and mountainous conditions at altitude. Included in course: AIARE certified course instructor, course manual, avalanche field book, and certificate of completion. Advanced reservations are required. Some personal items provided by participant(s); see the gear list tab above. Register at the Book It tab above, call (970) 949-9111 or use our contact page.

What to bring:

  • Beacon/probe/shovel (rental available)
  • Clinometer (BCA slope meter, also available on compasses)
  • Complete ski, split board or snowshoe equipment, including boots, poles, etc
  • *No cotton – cotton does not wick moisture or insulate when wet.
  • Sleeping bag/pillowcase
  • Synthetic or wool long underwear bottom (thin)
  • Synthetic or wool long sleeve top (medium)
  • Synthetic or wool socks
  • Ground mat (insulation so you can sit on snow)
  • Water/wind proof jacket with hood, pants, and gloves
  • Notebook (for lecture day)
  • Warm gloves or mittens
  • Hat and neck gaiter or balaclava
  • Goggles or sunglasses
  • Small day pack
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Lighter and matches

Food and Water:

  • Water to get you to the hut (~2 miles from parking lot)
  • Food: we do not provide food for the hut-based AIARE course, see details flag to the upper left.

Also Recommended:

  • Loupe (at least 10x zoom)
  • Snow Saw (minimum 30cm)
  • Snow crystal card

You may also consider:

  • Hand warmers
  • Liner socks
  • Adjustable Poles
  • Extra gloves
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle insulator

Participant Forms: If you wish to complete your participant forms in advance, download and print out the pdf below. Complete both pages for each participant, and give to your guide at the beginning of your trip.


Click the button below to view our terms, conditions and cancellation policy.