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How To Start Backcountry Touring in Lake Tahoe

Clients skinning up during a private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides

Are you ready to venture outside the resort boundaries into the world of backcountry skiing and snowboarding? Alpenglow Expeditions presents an unparalleled opportunity to explore your backcountry through a comprehensive series designed to elevate your skills and confidence in the pristine Tahoe wilderness and beyond. Our Backcountry Series is a progressive journey, catering to all levels from beginners to seasoned enthusiasts, offering a seamless progression from introductory to advanced techniques. These courses are designed to be taken in conjunction with official avalanche education courses administered by our experienced instructors through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).

Backcountry 1.0: Intro To Backcountry Touring

We offer Backcountry 1.0 in North and South Lake Tahoe.

The journey begins with our Backcountry 1.0, a foundational introduction to the essentials of backcountry skiing and splitboarding. Overview the basics of ski touring and splitboarding gear, learn the ins and outs of navigating avalanche terrain, and hone your movement techniques in variable terrain. This course provides the bedrock upon which your backcountry expertise will flourish.

We’ve designed this course to offer beginners the opportunity to get over the hurdle of needing experience to get experience for the AIARE 1 Avalanche course.  The prerequisite for our AIARE 1 is that participants have 5-10 days of touring experience OR have taken our Backcountry 1.0. The knowledge gained from the Backcountry 1.0 complements the AIARE 1 course by offering a broader understanding of backcountry travel and safety, making participants better equipped to comprehend the avalanche-specific content covered in the AIARE course.

AIARE 1 Avalanche Course

We offer AIARE 1 courses in North and South Lake Tahoe, as a 3-Day course, a hybrid in-person/online course, as a hut-based trip, and a teen-specific course.

The AIARE 1 avalanche course delves specifically into avalanche education, focusing on recognizing avalanche terrain, understanding snowpack, and making informed decisions to mitigate avalanche risk. The AIARE 1 covers these basic principles:

Safety Awareness: The AIARE 1 course provides essential education on avalanche terrain recognition, understanding snowpack, recognizing signs of instability, and making informed decisions to mitigate the risk of avalanches. This knowledge is fundamental for minimizing dangers and making safe choices while exploring the backcountry.

Decision-Making Skills: The course teaches decision-making frameworks and tools like the “Avalanche Triangle” (Terrain, Snowpack, and Weather) and the “Decision Making Framework” (Plan, Evaluate, Execute, Continuously Monitor). These tools empower individuals to assess risks systematically and make sound decisions in dynamic backcountry environments.

Rescue Techniques: AIARE 1 covers rescue techniques, including using avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels, essential skills for responding effectively in the event of an avalanche burial.

Responsible Backcountry Travel: AIARE 1 emphasizes responsible backcountry travel and group dynamics. Participants learn about group communication, decision-making processes, and teamwork.

In conclusion, an AIARE 1 provides vital knowledge, skills, and a mindset geared toward safety, risk mitigation, and responsible decision-making in avalanche terrain, ultimately contributing to a safer and more enjoyable experience in the backcountry. The next step is to hone your rescue skills in an AIARE Avalanche Rescue course. 

Terrain: In our BC 1.0 and AIARE 1 courses, we typically forgo advanced terrain in favor of more moderate slopes conducive to a productive learning environment. As of December 2023, we are mostly operating out of the Andesite Peak and Silver Peak areas, where an interesting and engaging snowpack is providing us with an ideal opportunity to cover fundamental backcountry principles.

AIARE Avalanche Rescue

We offer AIARE Avalanche Rescue in both North and South Lake Tahoe.

Dialing in rescue skills through an AIARE Avalanche Rescue course is paramount for backcountry enthusiasts. This intensive training focuses on using what’s in your avalanche rescue kit to respond rapidly and effectively in avalanche emergencies. The course’s emphasis on precision, efficiency, and realistic simulations prepares participants to navigate high-stress scenarios, ensuring they can quickly locate buried individuals, execute efficient digging techniques, and minimize rescue time.

Moreover, the course instills vital teamwork, communication, and coordination skills essential for successful group rescue efforts. Regular practice and refinement of these skills not only bolster individual confidence but also contribute to personal and group safety in the backcountry. Ultimately, mastering these rescue skills isn’t just about learning; it’s about ingraining the ability to act decisively and skillfully in critical moments, potentially saving lives and ensuring safer backcountry adventures.

With these courses under your belt, it’s best to spend a season practicing, planning, and touring on your own over roughly 10-15 days spent in the backcountry. After your first season of education and touring, move onto our Backcountry 2.0.

Backcountry 2.0: Intermediate Backcountry Skills

We offer Backcountry 2.0 in both North and South Lake Tahoe.

For those seeking to deepen their expertise, Backcountry 2.0 is the intermediate level that delves into advanced tour planning and leadership principles. Elevate your skills as you navigate more challenging terrains and develop a nuanced understanding of backcountry leadership. This course empowers you to confidently navigate complex landscapes and make informed decisions in varied conditions.

Following your BC 2.0, it’s best to spend at least one more season in the backcountry: roughly 10-20 days depending on conditions, access, and enthusiasm. From there, those looking for a deep dive into snow science and terrain assessment should consider taking an AIARE 2, the final step in recreational avalanche education.

Terrain: For the BC 2.0, we graduate to slightly more complex terrain to challenge us and accommodate our learning objectives for operating in various settings. As of December 2023, we are running these courses on Castle Peak and, conditions permitting, the Shirley Canyon area out of Olympic Valley.

AIARE 2 Avalanche Course 

We offer AIARE 2 courses in North and South Lake Tahoe.

Advanced Risk Management: An AIARE 2 course focuses on intricate terrain analysis, snowpack assessment, and decision-making frameworks. Participants refine their skills in evaluating complex avalanche terrain, understanding snowpack layering and stability tests, and employing various decision-making models to mitigate risk. This advanced knowledge equips individuals with the skills to make informed decisions in challenging backcountry environments.

Professional Development: For those pursuing careers or leadership roles in the backcountry industry, an AIARE 2 certification is often a required prerequisite. This course delves into advanced leadership and instructional techniques, preparing participants to guide others safely through avalanche terrain. It emphasizes teaching methodologies, risk communication, group dynamics, and scenario-based learning, enhancing participants’ abilities to instruct and lead backcountry groups effectively.

Enhanced Rescue and Decision-Making Skills: Building upon AIARE 1 skills, the AIARE 2 course further refines rescue techniques and decision-making abilities in complex avalanche scenarios. Participants engage in realistic simulations, honing their rescue skills under more challenging conditions. This advanced training not only strengthens individual rescue proficiency but also enhances group coordination and communication during complex rescue operations.

In essence, the AIARE 2 course is instrumental for those seeking advanced knowledge in avalanche risk management, professional development in the backcountry industry, and honing advanced rescue and decision-making skills essential for guiding or leading groups safely through challenging backcountry environments. This is an ideal course for someone looking to break into the complex and vertical world of ski mountaineering, covered in our Backcountry 3.0 course.

 

Backcountry 3.0: Intro To Ski Mountaineering

We offer Backcountry 3.0 in North and South Lake Tahoe.

Mesh your backcountry skills with technical winter climbing in the Backcountry 3.0, a formal introduction to ski mountaineering principles and practices. This advanced course integrates seamlessly with the preceding levels (Backcountry 1.0 and 2.0, as well as AIARE courses) or can be pursued as a standalone option, depending on your experience and education. Learn the intricacies of ski mountaineering, from safely approaching steep lines to integrating specialized tools like ice axes, crampons, and harnesses into your touring toolkit.

Terrain: For our most complex and involved courses, we are traveling to more remote ski areas in the Tahoe basin such as Nat Geo Bowl (behind Granite Chief), the Castle Peak Summit Ridge, and Donner Peak. These areas offer a variety of terrain settings and allow us to study various aspects and an array of backcountry scenarios.

If you’re keen to go above and beyond a one-day course, learn skimo (short for ski mountaineering) skills and glacier travel while putting your new toolkit to use in our 5 Day Mountaineering School on Mt. Shasta.

Why You Should Learn From A Professional Mountain Guide

Learning how to backcountry ski or splitboard from professional mountain guides holds paramount importance in ensuring safety, skill development, and a deeper understanding of navigating the uncharted terrain. Our guides possess a wealth of experience and expertise, offering invaluable knowledge about avalanche safety, route planning, snowpack assessment, and emergency procedures. Professional guides impart critical decision-making abilities and teach effective risk management, allowing enthusiasts to explore remote, breathtaking landscapes with confidence and minimizing the inherent dangers associated with backcountry skiing.

If you’re curious about where you fall in the progression of backcountry experience and avalanche education, give us a call at 877-873-5376 and speak to one of our experts. We are intimately familiar with our course progression and where you fall in based on your skillset, and through our guides we can provide exclusive access to information regarding current snowpack conditions.

North Lake Tahoe Backcountry Touring & Avalanche Education Courses

An Alpenglow Expeditions ski guide leads a group of intro to backcountry skiers in the Tahoe backcountry on snow with a mountain in the background, and a partly cloudy sky.

Backcountry 1.0: Intro To Backcountry

Introductory Next Available
Mar 8, 2024
8 Hours / Full Day Lake Tahoe, CA
private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides

Women’s Intro To Backcountry

Introductory Next Available
Mar 9, 2024- Mar 10, 2024
Two 8-hour days Lake Tahoe
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE 1 Hybrid Course In North Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
Feb 27, 2024 – Feb 28, 2024
2 Days and Online Coursework Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE 1: 3-Day Course In North Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
March 22 – 24, 2024
3 days, 8 hours a day Lake Tahoe, California
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

Frog Lake Huts AIARE 1

Intermediate Next Available
Mar 12-14, 2024
3 days, 2 nights Frog Lake Huts, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

Teen AIARE 1 Avalanche Course

Introductory Next Available
Booked privately at any time
2 full days (8 hours each) Conditions Dependent
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course In North Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
Mar 08, 2024
Full Day / 8 Hours Lake Tahoe, CA
Learn Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding in Lake Tahoe with professional ski guides.

Backcountry 2.0: Intermediate Backcountry Skills

Intermediate Next Available
Mar 9, 2024
8 Hours / Full Day Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE 2 In North Lake Tahoe

Intermediate Next Available
Mar 8-10, 2024
3 Days / 24 Hours Lake Tahoe, CA

Backcountry 3.0: Intro To Ski Mountaineering

Advanced Next Available
Mar 16, 2024
8 hours / Full Day Lake Tahoe, CA

South Lake Tahoe Backcountry Touring & Avalanche Education Courses

Learn Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding in Lake Tahoe with professional ski guides.

Backcountry 1.0 In South Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
Mar 15, 2024
Full Day, 8 Hours South Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE 1 Hybrid Course In South Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
Mar 4-5, 2024
2 Days in Person + Online coursework South Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course In South Lake Tahoe

Introductory Next Available
Mar 15, 2024
Full Day 8 Hours South Lake Tahoe
private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides

Backcountry 2.0 In South Lake Tahoe

Intermediate Next Available
Mar 16, 2024
Full Day, 8 Hours South Lake Tahoe, CA
aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

AIARE 2 In South Lake Tahoe

Intermediate 3 days, 24 hours South Lake Tahoe, CA

Backcountry 3.0 In South Lake Tahoe

Advanced Next Available
Mar 23, 2024
Full Day / 8 Hours South Lake Tahoe, CA