Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain
Avalanche Education Course

Our AIARE Level 1 avalanche education course provides a dynamic introduction to understanding avalanche activity. The course combines interactive classroom with focused field sessions to help you learn how to make good decisions in avalanche terrain. You will learn a myriad of knowledge and skills including terrain recognition; types of avalanche problems; travel strategies; understanding human factors; the influence of weather; companion rescue skills including use of the transceiver, probe, and shovel; tour planning; snow pit testing and analysis; and use of the AIARE Decision Making Framework.

  • Who’s it for? Anyone who travels in potential avalanche terrain – skiers, snowshoers, climbers, or snowmobilers.
  • How we go? Participants may take this course on backcountry skis, split board, or snowshoes.
  • Where do we go? Most courses utilize terrain on or near Mt. Washington and the northern Presidential Range.
  • Why go with AMG? Acadia Mountain Guides is New England’s original and most experienced AIARE provider and is led by IFMGA Mountain Guide Jon Tierney. Our curriculum meets and exceeds the AIARE Level 1 curriculum.
  • Pre-requisites: Fitness, clothing, and equipment to ski or hike up to 8 miles round trip with a 10-pound pack.

This course aims to help you to better answer these questions;

Where is the danger? When is it dangerous? How is it trending?

Should we go on? What do I do if caught in an avalanche?

Starting with an in-person classroom, you will learn about what creates an avalanche-prone slope, where they may occur, red flag snowpack and weather observations, how to interpret and work with the “human factor,” and elements of preparation and tour planning. We will then head outside onto the snow to begin working on terrain recognition, assessing snowpack layers and interphases, practicing travel techniques to improve safety margins and practice rescue skills, including the use of avalanche transceivers, probing techniques, strategic shoveling and rescue organization. The final day will consist of a longer tour focused on identifying avalanche terrain, evaluating snowpack layers, applying and interpreting basic snowpit tests, and a real-life rescue scenario, all while developing basic tools to make smart route-finding decisions. Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to “pick the brain” of guides who have spent many years skiing and climbing in the mountains all over the world.

2023-2024 Schedule

Instructor Dick Chasse looking into Tuckerman Ravine, NH.
Level I Course Assessing Layer in Gulf of Slide, NH.

Specific Info

General Info

AIARE Level I is for anyone who travels in potential avalanche terrain – skiers, snowshoers, climbers, or snowmobilers.

Fitness, clothing, and equipment to ski or hike up to 8 miles round trip with a 10-pound pack. If skiing or riding, you should be advanced enough to ski ungroomed intermediate terrain at major northeast ski resorts safely.

Our New Hampshire courses are based at the Quality Inn, Gorham, NH for the classroom portion. For the field portion of the course, we will utilize terrain in/around on Mount Washington as well as local Granite Backcountry Alliance glades.

Acadia Mountain Guides is the longest standing avalanche education provider on the East Coast. Led by IMFGA guide Jon Tierney who has been teaching avalanche courses since 1986. Many well known New England avalanche educators first started with an AMG course. See instructor bios.

Participants receive a 20% discount on any avalanche related purchases made between registration and seven days after the course (15% thereafter for lifetime). Avalanche gear will be available for purchase at the course as well. (online at AlpenglowGear.com

Ski Clothing; (your normal backcountry skiing kit w/ added insulation for standing around and learning)

  • Softshell jacket
  • Softshell pants
  • 1 mid-weight layer (regulator fleece)
  • 1 light top or similar base layer
  • Base layers
  • 2 prs of ski socks
  • Heavy gloves
  • light gloves (soft shell, wind stopper or wool)
  • Ski hat/helmet
  • Down coat/puffy/insulation layer
  • Goggles
  • Sunglasses
  • Balaclava 

Lunch Food, Snacks, and Drinks (as desired);

  • Cliff bars/energy bars/energy gels
  • Jerky
  • Mixed nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Hot chocolate/tea/coffee/etc.

In the field

  • Touring skis, poles, boots, split board, or snowshoes.
  • Probe, transceiver, shovel*
  • Ski or splitboard Skins*
  • Ski pack (30 L or bigger)
  • Thermos
  • Compass with baseplate
  • Sunscreen/lip balm

At the end of the AIARE 1 course, the student should be able to:

  • Develop a plan for travel in avalanche terrain.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify avalanche terrain.
  • Effectively use The AIARE Risk Management Framework to make terrain choices in a group setting.
  • Demonstrate effective companion rescue.

The following is a summary of topics presented. The classroom presentations are mostly instructor led presentations and discussion then reinforced by a variety of videos and case studies – many of actual incidents.


Introduction to Avalanche Phenomena

  • Types and characteristics of avalanche problems
  • Avalanche motion and classification
  • The mountain snowpack: an introduction to metamorphism and layering
  • The influence of weather and time

Observations and Information Gathering

  • Avalanche danger scale
  • Field observation techniques
  • Snowpack tests: layering, compression test, extended column tests
  • Avalanche danger factors or “Red Flags”
  • Observation checklist

Trip Planning and Preparation

  • Avalanche terrain recognition, assessment, and selection
  • Route finding and travel techniques
  • Decision making and Human Factors
  • Basic familiarization with common mapping software, map use and navigation
  • Creating a tour plan

Companion Rescue and Equipment

  • Rescue organization
  • Use of transceiver, probe and shovel
  • Strategic shoveling
  • Basic care of injury

Each day we will choose appropriate ski objectives based on weather, snow and avalanche conditions, and personal interest. 

  • Day 1: Arrive at the start of the course for an afternoon/evening class. Covering introductions, complete class paperwork, introduce avalanche topics:  avalanche characteristics and problem types, terrain recognition, mountain snowpack evolution, weather influence, planning and prep, tour planning, human heuristics, etc.

Interactive Zoom meeting option covers the above topics in evening sessions. 

  • Day 2: Complete avalanche topics if needed. Typically, we have classroom sessions in the morning followed by a field session / short tour with either companion rescue or pit intro and then additional classroom time.

Online participants go directly to field sessions

  • Day 3: Following a morning meeting, we typically head out for a longer tour on Mount Washington. After the tour, we return for final class session and debrief.


Acadia Mountain Guides has partnered with Quality Inn, Gorham New Hampshire to offer lodging right at the same venue as the classroom location. Quality Inn offers single/double occupancy rooms for $99/night, an additional $5/night will be charged for above double occupancy, room charge also includes continental breakfast.

Gorham has several options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All are within walking distance of the classroom.

You will often find our instructors down the road at locally/skier owned SAaLT Pub enjoying locally sourced food and drink for dinner after a long day in the mountains!

We encourage you to join us there, we are delighted to continue conversing about snow, mountains and more even after the class has ended!

No one starts the day expecting to get hurt in the backcountry. However, despite all we know and all we do, accidents can still happen. At AMG, we take your medical care seriously. Like many guide services, our leaders are trained as Wilderness First Responders; many are WEMTs. Additionally, all our regular employees participate in periodic medical skills review with our owner Jon, a flight paramedic and lead instructor in wilderness medicine. Additionally, on courses traveling to remote areas such as Katahdin, Chic-Chocs, or Mount Washington, you can expect our guides to have pain and sedation medications available if needed.

As we all look for ways to get outside it’s important do so in a responsible manner that promotes the health and safety of both participants and guides. Since opening in 1994, Acadia Mountain Guides has had a strong reputation for leading the way with regard to safety quality assurance and has now established Covid-19 pandemic guidelines that meet and exceed those recommended by the CDC, the state of Maine, the American Camping Association and professional guide associations. We are committed to maintaining a healthy educational environment. As best practices continue to evolve and the nature of the pandemic changes we will continue to adapt our guidelines. We ask for your patience, flexibility and cooperation and we work through this together. If you If you do not pass our COVID screening or we are forced to cancel your program due to COVID, you will be given the option to reschedule or receive a full refund. 

During your avalanche training course you can expect the following COVID guidelines to be followed:

  • AMG will limit the size of courses and travel groups to reduce exposure and to meet spacing requirements.
  • Guides will record health status and temperature at start of day will not report to work if symptomatic.
  • Clients are expected to honestly answer the following health related questions regarding COVID – 19 signs and symptoms and understand that you may not be allowed to participate if certain conditions are present:
    • Known close contact with a + COVID person within last 14 days?
    • Onset of non-productive cough within last 14 days?
    • Onset of new shortness of breath within last 14 days?
    • If any of the above, you may not participate until having a COVID test or have been symptom free for 14 days.
  • Any additional signs / symptoms Fever (>100.4 F), recent chills, body aches/muscle pain, headache, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, new loss of taste or smell.
  • If 2 or more of above you may not participate until having a COVID test or have been symptom free for 14 days. If your participation in the outing is not allowed, you will be given the option to reschedule, or to receive a refund.
  • Surfaces, instruments and equipment in which we anticipate your contact will be disinfected prior to your arrival.
  • Hand sanitizer will be readily available throughout the course.
  • Whenever possible we will meet and prepare for tours outside in the fresh air.
  • We will not share food, drink or clothing.
  • We will not greet you with a hand shake but with a big, friendly smile hidden by our face covering.
  • Physical distancing will be maintained when possible and face coverings will be utilized when distancing can’t be maintained.
  • You will be issued a cleaned transceiver, shovel and probe for your own use during course. Any additional shared gear will be sanitized or quarantined between use.
  • Clients and guide should ride in separate vehicles. Carpooling with those outside of your family is discouraged.
  • Medical care: In addition to standard medical supplies, guides will carry an HME filter and mask to safely provide airway and breathing management.

You may view our complete COVID guidelines here. These guidelines have been reviewed by risk management experts and our Medical Advisor, Dr. Jonnathan Busko, M.D.

AIARE courses are recognized across the country and are consistent with the international standards and recording methods. AIARE instructors participate in annual training and network continuously with each other to learn about the latest information in avalanche science. Courses flow sequentially regardless of where you take your class. AIARE courses teach you a way of thinking about snow travel rather than a protocol-based approach to learning. Save lives through education.

Please complete the following as pre-course work and be prepared to discuss in class.

On line learning:  Regardless of whether you are taking our Online Session or  not, The AIARE online learning component is great for getting a basic understanding of avalanche terrain, avalanche problems and how to recognize suspect areas.  We strongly suggest looking at this in advance. Plan about 2 – 3 hours to work on the online content ahead of the class.

Download and begin reviewing The AIARE 1 Student Manual

Case Studies:

  • If you are a skier / boarder, please read the Tunnel Creek Avalanche case study.
  • If you are a climber or hiker, please look over the local case study from Tuckerman Ravine.
  • Be prepared to chat the case studies:  What went wrong, could you see yourself making similar decisions, what may have changed to outcome?

Tour Planning:

  • Tour planning is how you prepare to go into the back country.
  • A tour plan is generated by using the avalanche bulletin, combined with maps (both hard copy and electronic versions) and a weather forecast to understand how the weather will influence your plan.
  • It is easy to create reliable computer/phone-based tour plans to bring to the backcountry. You should always have a hard map and compass.
  • Your tour plan should give you an idea of the vertical gain, the distance, compass bearings, run options, areas to be careful of. Attached is a sample tour plan template.
  • Electronic tour planning is great, but you need to understand some basics as well. We will review tour planning basics in class but keep in mind it is not a navigation class. Please bring a compass, ideally with a base plate.
  • We will be doing some sample tour planning during the course. It is helpful if you are able to bring a laptop computer.
  • We suggest downloading the following programs and apps which are useful for digital mapping:

         To your laptop: Caltopo
          To your smartphone: the mapping apps Avensa, Caltopo, Gaia and the Windy app for weather.

         Tour planning resources:

We seek to find the best snow and learning conditions possible for each course and to provide different venues for each field day. If we travel to the west side of Mount Washington a nominal parking fee may be charged at the Cog Railway base station parking area. Occasionally we utilize lift access at Wildcat to access terrain and this may require purchasing a single ride lift pass.

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, 3rd Edition. Bruce Tremper

  • This edition features a wholly new chapter in which Bruce pulls all the pieces together to create an organized, step-by-step system for making decisions off, and on, the mountain.

Avalanche Essentials: A Step-by-Step System for Safety & Survival, Bruce Tremper

  • This is the companion to Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain the bestselling avalanche text in the U.S – with easy-to-understand safety tips and checklists to help anyone stay safer in avalanche terrain. It is a small, take-along resource to reference in the field and assist decision-making. Winter athletes don’t necessarily want to be snow scientists but playing in avalanche country does require basic knowledge of the risks in order to stay safe.
  • The most comprenhensive guidebook to skiing in the Presidential range, owned and used by all of our guides. Incredibly useful for beginning to understand the terrain you will be learning/travelling in.
*Purchase at ALPENGLOWGEAR.COM see course confirmation for Acadia Mountain Guides client discount code

Enjoying the outdoors necessitates a certain degree of risk-taking. You are participating in this trip and entering the winter backcountry environment at your own risk.  You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While such accidents are rare, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. Our guides draw upon solid guide education coupled with extensive experience to manage significant hazards inherent to mountain travel.  Some of the hazards that can lead to injury or death associated with this trip include but are not limited to extreme weather, demanding physical travel, avalanche, vehicle transportation, and falls or collisions while skiing or snowboarding. Please be sure that you are fully aware of such risks. Our goal is to interpret the environmental, situational, and group variables and make educated decisions to minimize dangers to you while providing an enjoyable and memorable experience. 


Self-reliance in the face of adversity is expected on the part of the wilderness traveler entering the wilderness. Rescue is not automatic. Our party is alone for all practical purposes and must depend upon our own resources for self-rescue and be equipped for an extended emergency. Cellular phones and radios should not be relied upon in an emergency.  


Finally, this is a group trip, and good expedition behavior is critical. Participants are asked to stay with the group until everyone has safely exited the backcountry.

A 100% deposit is required for registration.

Payment and reservations can be made at Alpenglow Adventure Sports.

When you book a course with Acadia Mountain Guides, you agree to our cancellation policy. Please realize that if your travel does not go according to plan in any way and for any reason, we are unable to provide credits or refunds outside of what is described below. We strongly recommend that you purchase trip insurance to protect your activity purchase against unforeseeable circumstances, which include but are not limited to:

  • The anticipation of Inclement Weather
  • Flight and Travel Delays and Conditions
  • Personal or work schedule changes
  • Injury or illness of self or family member
If you cancel more than 21 days in advance, you may put the deposit toward a future course or receive a refund of 50% of your deposit. Cancellations made within twenty-one (21) days of the program forfeit the full tuition rate. Alternatively, if you find a replacement, you will receive a 100% refund. A full refund will be given if Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School must cancel the course.

If you are symptomatic or found positive for COVID, have been exposed to COVID + person(s) in the past 14 days, you may request to be either rescheduled or receive a full refund.

The goals and objectives of this program are to learn avalanche skills. It is unlikely that we will pursue any summits during the course. Commonly we ascend into areas around Tuckerman Ravine, Gulf of Slide, and ravines adjacent to the cog railway. We will make every reasonable effort to reach these areas. However, extreme weather, avalanche conditions, inadequate personal fitness, difficult terrain, or park weather/travel closures may make it impossible to achieve our desired terrain objectives.

People often ask if it’s appropriate to tip the instructor. Tipping is never expected but always greatly appreciated.

This is your course. The more you let your instructor know what your needs are, the more he or she can help you. If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you have special interests, let your instructor know. If your instructor has provided you with a great experience and shared his or her knowledge and joy of the mountain world with you, a thank-you note or gratuity is always well received. If they have not, we would like to know about it.

A minimum of four (4) participants are needed to run this program, and there is a maximum of twelve (12). The decision to run the program will be made three weeks before the start date. In the case of low registration, you will have the option of joining another trip, receiving a refund, or possibly paying an additional amount to allow the trip to run with low numbers.

Are you part of a college organization, ski club, etc.? We are happy to schedule a customized course for organizations, small groups, and individuals through New England and Eastern Canada. Of course, if you would like to schedule a course or trip to Iceland, Colorado, or Japan, etc., we would be very pleased to work with you.

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is certified through the American Mountain Guide Association and the Professional Climbing Instructor Association. Acadia Mountain Guides actively supports furthering their guide’s development throughout their career. That means our guides constantly take steps to progress their skills and provide you with an exceptional experience. AMG is also a proponent of helping clients reach their goals; whether it’s having an epic day in the mountains or gaining skills to get into other terrains, Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School can get you there!

Our instructor team is the strongest in New England and our courses reflect that. We were at the table early on when the concept of furthering public avalanche education in the U.S. was being discussed and the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education was being created. For several years we were the only climbing school sponsoring AIARE avalanche courses in the eastern U.S. We often ran them at a financial loss, brought avalanche guru Karl Klassen (Canadian IFMGA guide, chief forecaster for the Canadian Avalanche Association, and initial technical director for AIARE) in from western Canada to teach them, and corralled all of our friends to attend just to have enough people to run the course. In fact, many of the snow rangers and current avalanche course providers who are working or have worked on Mount Washington were participants in those early courses. Today, times have changed and the demand for courses has created an abundance of courses and providers. While all the courses are good, we believe ours to often be superior because of the strength of our team.

Jon Tierney
Owner, Acadia Mountain Guides, AIARE Level I & II Course Leader
IFMGA/AMGA International Mountain Guide | AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide | AMGA Alpine Guide | AMGA Rock Guide | AMGA Rock and Alpine Instructor / Examiner 1997 – 2007 | AIARE Level III Avalanche Certification | AIARE LI & LII Course Leader | Flight and Critical Care Paramedic | Professional guide since 1983, climber and skier since 1975 | American Avalanche Association and AMGA Professional Member | Registered Maine Guide
Albert Mandell
AIARE Level I & II Course Leader
AMGA Assistant Ski Guide | AIARE Level III Avalanche Certification | AIARE LI & LII Course Leader | Wilderness First Responder
almandellAl Mandell
Rob Benton
AIARE Level I & II Course Instructor
AIARE Professional Level I | AIARE Level I & II Instructor | AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide | AMGA Single Pitch Instructor | Swift Water Canoe Guide | Wilderness First Responder | Maine Search and Rescue | Associates Degree in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism |
Rob Bentonrobbenton_
Benjamin Allen
AIARE Level I & II Course Instructor
AIARE Pro 1 Avalanche Certification | AIARE L1 & L2 Course Instructor | Wilderness First Responder | Professional Ski Patroller
Mark Renson
AIARE Level I & II Course Instructor
American Avalanche Institue Level III Certification | Canadian Avalanche Association AST-2 | Senior Outdoor Emergency Care Certified | Proffesional Ski Patroller
Mark P. Renson
Benjamin Mirkin
AIARE Level I & II Course Leader
AIARE III Certification | AIARE Level I, II & Rescue Course Leader | AMGA Rock Instructor | AMGA Ice Instructor | AMGA Apprentice Alpine and Ski Guide | Ph.D. in Education
Benjamin Mirkin
Cord Farmer
AIARE Level I & II Course Instructor
AIARE Pro 1 Avalanche Certification | AIARE L1 & L2 Course Instructor | Wilderness First Responder | B.A. in Sports & Recreation Management | M.A. in Sports Psychology

A History of
Leading the way…

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is the preeminent frontrunner in climbing instruction and guiding in Acadia and across Maine. 

Since 1994 we have specialized in designing customized experiences or training for you, your family, group, or company.


• Since 1994 •

AMGCS is one of 32 AMGA accredited programs in the US and was one of the earliest to pursue and achieve accreditation. AMGCS is the only climbing school in Maine to remain continuously AMGA accredited. We have had one or more full time AMGA rock guides on staff each year since 1994.

Owned by internationally recognized IFMGA/AMGA Mountain Guide Jon Tierney who has been climbing in Acadia since 1982. Jon has over 30 years of local and worldwide experience. The IFMGA requires full AMGA certification as a rock, alpine and ski mountaineering guide.

PCIA Accredited

• Since 2007 •

AMGCS has the distinction of also being accredited to the highest standards of the Professional Climbing Instructors Association. The PCIA requires all staff to be individually trained and certified.

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