Backcountry SKiing

Snow Observation & Stability Analysis
Hut-Based Avalanche Education Course in 
Gaspésie National Park, Quebec

The next step towards self-sufficiency in the mountains! Our AIARE Level II is a seven-day hut-based course that provides backcountry travelers an opportunity to advance their decision-making skills in more complicated situations such as being a leader within a small travel group, traveling in more complicated terrain, and/or developing a travel plan where resources are scarce.

Our AIARE Level II builds on the introductory avalanche hazard management model introduced in the AIARE Level I and adds to it the evaluation of critical hazard assessment factors. Students will describe and discuss the weather, snowpack, and avalanche processes and identify how they relate to observations and travel within avalanche terrain.

  • Who’s it for? Experienced backcountry travelers who are looking to expand their decision-making skills needed to lead a small group. – skiers, snowshoers, climbers, or snowmobilers.
  • How we go? Participants may take this course on backcountry skis, or split board.
  • Where do we go? This course will utilize terrain in/around Gaspésie National Park
  • 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 II curriculum standards.
  • Pre-requisites:
    • 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 terrain at major northeast ski resorts.
    • An AIARE Level I Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent Level I training is required.
    • A winter of practical experience after the Level I course is highly recommended.

Starting with an in-person classroom session, you will be lead through a review of AIARE Level I material, and we will take a look into your avalanche records of past seasons with the help of your instructor; the review consists of the following topics; 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 build on these skills and learn about making in-depth weather observations in the field and at basecamp and how these observations correlate to our snowpackFrom there, we will head outside onto the snow to begin working on building snow profiles, making on-the-go “quick pit” observations, assessing snowpack layers and interphases, performing snowpack tests, and documenting pit results, and how to manage risk in small groups. We will work on longer tour plans that consist of the longer tours focused on building and executing a safe and fun tour plan, proper group travel techniques, decision making as a small team in the backcountry, how to manage risk in the field, and finally round out the course with an extensive debrief as well as how to communicate/submit your observations to other travelers and local avalanche experts. 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 Course Schedule

  • Day 1 Travel Day (8:00 AM ~  4 – 5:00 PM): Rendevous at Acadia Mountain Guides office in Bangor, ME – Travel to Gaspésie National Park (Approx 7hr travel time). We will serve dinner at the huts upon arrival.
  • Day 2 – 6: Wake up, breakfast served. Review weather/avalanche conditions and plans for the day in a collaborative group meeting setting, prepare appropriate gear or learning materials for the day ahead.
    • Morning classroom session or quick ski tour -break for lunch- Afternoon classroom session or quick ski tour.


    • Full-day ski tour, snow observation, or terrain reconnaissance
  • Day 7 Travel Day (9:00 AM ~  6 – 7:00 PM): Wake up, breakfast served. Pack personal items, assist instructors/guides with hut clean up, and pack up. Begin travels back to Acadia Mountain Guides office or appropriate individual locations.
Tuition: $1650.00 -Includes AIARE LII text hardcopy and PDF, AIARE Field Book, Lodging, two meals/day, observation kit.

Course Schedule:

Date   Region Classroom Location

February 9th – 15th, 2024

Chic-Chocs, Quebec  Huts at Mont Albert, Gaspésie National Park, Quebec
One of many happy clients!
Looking at layers on the Hogs Back with IFMGA mountain guide Jon Tierney
Hut-based classroom session

Specific Info

General Info

AIARE Level II is for experienced backcountry travelers looking to expand their decision-making skills needed to lead a small group. – 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 terrain at major northeast ski resorts.
  • An AIARE Level I Course (strongly recommended) or equivalent Level I training.
  • A winter of practical experience after the AIARE Level I course is highly recommended.

This course will utilize terrain in/around Gaspésie National Park

Acadia Mountain Guides is the longest standing avalanche education provider on the East Coast. Our team is 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 below.

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
  • Baselayers
  • 2 pairs of ski socks
  • Heavy gloves
  • light gloves (softshell, 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 Split-board skins
  • Ski pack (30 L or bigger)
  • Thermos
  • Compass with baseplate
  • Sunscreen/lip balm

Observation Equipment:

May also be purchased or rented from Alpenglow Adventure Sports at a 20% discount. Basic observation kit rental is included in tuition cost (cards, screen, thermometer, ruler, loupe)

  • Field notebook – Specialized avalanche record book
  • Pencil
  • Snow saw or folding pruning saw (approx. 40 cm blade).
  • Snow thermometer (graduated in degrees Celsius). Digital is more accurate but uses a battery.
  • Crystal screen
  • Snow pit cards
  • Magnifying Loupe
  • Folding ruler (graduated in centimeters required. 2-meter length recommended)
  • Compass with an inclinometer (or bring separate inclinometer),
  • Altimeter (recommended)
  • Pocketknife

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

  • Differentiate where specific avalanche hazards exist within the landscape and identify avalanche terrain where consequences may be more severe.
  • Use and interpret weather, snow, and avalanche observations to locate appropriate terrain before entering and in the field.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills within a small team that includes facilitating small group discussions, promoting appropriate terrain selection, and utilizing simple risk management strategies.
  • Implement a basic forecasting framework that can be used in conjunction with and in the absence of local supporting avalanche information.

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

  • The Changing Mountain Snowpack
    • AIARE 1 Review
    • Mountain Weather
    • The Layered Mountain Snowpack
    • Trip Planning Review
    • Snow profiles in the Field
  • Making Quality Observations
    • Avalanche Formation and Release
    • Interpreting Weather Data, Snow Surface Conditions, and Snow Profiles
    • Craftsmanship, Relevancy, and Verification of Snow Observations
    • Risk Management in Small Groups
    • Snowpack Test in the Field
  • Applying Observations to Field Decisions
    • Traveling in the Field as a Small Team
    • Field Risk Management and During Action Review
    • Communicating Observations to our group, other travelers, and local experts

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

  • Day 1 – Travel Day (8:00 AM ~  4 – 5:00 PM): Rendevous at Acadia Mountain Guides office in Bangor, ME Introductions, complete registration paperwork. Carpooling opportunities (highly encouraged). Equipment Check. Travel to Gaspésie National Park (Approx 7hr travel time). Dinner will be served at the huts upon arrival.
  • Day 2Wake up, breakfast served. Review of AIARE Level I, introduction to mountain weather, review trip planning process, execute a short tour to introduce terrain and snow profiles to students. Return to the hut. Avalanche formation and releases. Dinner served, social time.
  • Day 3Wake up, breakfast served. Review of AIARE Avalanche Rescue, interpreting weather data, snow surface conditions, and snow profiles. Relevancy and verification of snow observations. Risk management in small groups. Execute snowpack test in the field. Return to the hut. Tour planning/Digital Mapping. Dinner served, work in small groups to build tour plans to be used over the remainder of the course.
  • Day 4: Wake up, breakfast served. Execute a small group tour plan, practice proper travel techniques, make decisions as a small team, learn how to manage risk in the field. Return to the hut and end the day with a debrief.
  • Day 5: Group Choice
  • Day 6: Group Choice
  • Day 7 – Travel Day (8:00 AM ~  4 – 5:00 PM): Wake up, breakfast served. Pack personal items, assist instructors/guides with hut clean up, and pack up. Begin travels back to Acadia Mountain Guides office or appropriate individual locations.

*Daily ski objectives are not stated to ensure the integrity of the learning experience and decision-making process, some of the commonly saught and skied objectives are listed below for you to explore.

Champs de Mars, The Hogs Back, Mont Lyall


Lodging: Acadia Mountain Guides has been traveling to the Chic-Chocs for a few years now and we have found an incredible teaching environment at the Mont-Albert huts. Right in the heart of Gaspésie National Park, these wood-stove heated huts sleep 8 comfortably with ample room for drying equipment, cooking, eating, and a pleasant classroom. 

Huts are equipped with;

  • Electricity
  • Wood Stove
  • 4 Bunk Beds (8 beds total) 
Meals: We provide both breakfast and dinner for students during the course, meals will be prepared by the instructors/guides. Any serious allergies/dietary restrictions will be accommodated, we cannot guarantee that preferences will be adhered to but we will do our best to keep them in mind. Acadia Mountain Guides serves a mostly plant-based meal plan with meat protein addition available for most meals.

Pub/WiFi/Cellular Service: During our time in the Gaspésie National Park, we will not have phone service. We will regularly access the Gite du Mont Albert to both indulge in the excellent selections of local beer and wine but to also connect to wifi for class-related activities and assignments.

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 who is 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 look forward to traveling to the Chic-Chocs we must keep in mind that travel has only recently begun between the borders of the US & Canada. 

All students will be required to have a vaccination as be able to provide that proof of vaccination upon registration as well as when entering Canada to access the Gaspesie National Park.

For more information and to read the requirements put forth by the Canadian government you can visit the link here; Canadian Covid Travel Requirements

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 the outcome?

Tour Planning:

  • Tour planning is how you prepare to go into the backcountry.
  • 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 Windy 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.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

  • This book explores the ways we think and make decisions under pressure, we find it valuable as we are exploring the idea of leading a group or being an active part of the decision-making in the backcountry.

Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs. (SWAG)

Chic-Chocs Backcountry Touring Guidebook

  • The most comprenhensive guidebook to skiing in the Chic-Choc region, owned and used by all of our guide. 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. It is our goal to interpret the environmental, situational, and group variables and to make educated decisions to minimize dangers to you while at the same time 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. For all practical purposes, our party is alone 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 are agreeing 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:

  • 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 program forfeit 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 they 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 six (6). The decision to run the program will be made three weeks prior to 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 are constantly taking steps to progress their skills and will provide you with an exceptional experience. AMG is also a proponent of helping clients reach their goals, whether its having an epic day in the mountains or gaining skills to get into other terrain, 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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Become a client of Acadia Mountain Guides and receive a permanent 15% off MSRP on purchases in our stores or at AlpenglowGear.com.

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Gear Rental Program

AMGCS also rents outdoor equipment for your convenience. All clients receive 25% off rental equipment for use on our courses.
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