A Short History of AIARE

One of the Co-founders of AIARE Jean Pavillard was instructing guides courses for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) in 1992.  On a spring course in the California Sierra, he met visiting guide, Karl Klassen.  This chance meeting led to the eventual formation of AIARE.  At that time, the AMGA was in the process of applying for acceptance into the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA).  The IFMGA assigned Karl to observe and assist the AMGA in the process.

Karl and Jean were fully certified IFMGA guides, Karl from Canada and Jean from Switzerland, living in Crested Butte, Colorado at the time.  One of the things they both agreed on was the uneven avalanche knowledge displayed by the guide candidates present on the California course.  The U.S. had no nationally recognized curriculum although the American Avalanche Association had published avalanche course guidelines.  While there were many excellent avalanche course providers, there was little consistency between providers.  Consequently candidates came with various levels of knowledge.

At this same time, backcountry recreation was taking off.  People were heading into avalanche terrain and many saw the benefits of getting an education on how to manage their risk in the backcountry.

Tom Murphy was course director for Jeans guiding company, Adventures to the Edge in Crested Butte, Colorado and saw a need for a unified approach to avalanche education.  People needed a method, a framework for assessing risk and moving through avalanche terrain; from the bottom of the mountain and up.  Karl had experience with the Canadian Avalanche Association in developing course curriculum and began to assist Tom and Jean with their avalanche courses in Crested Butte.  It was through this collaboration that AIARE developed its roots.

Word was getting out and other course providers across the U.S. began to take an interest in the development of the AIARE program.   AIARE worked on integrating national and international standards and began to incorporate a ’decision makers’ approach to risk management in avalanche education.  An instructor training program was initiated to keep presenters of the curriculum singing off the same sheet of music, as well as provide a forum for information exchange and professional development.

Today, the organization provides avalanche education to more backcountry travelers than any other single avalanche education organization in the U.S.  AIARE draws on input from our 300 instructors across the nation.  Whether you take an AIARE course in New Hampshire or California, the learning outcomes are the same.  Instructors are encouraged to personalize their courses with local anecdotal and case study information, however the learning outcomes for each topic must be met.  If you decide to take an AIARE 2 in Washington after taking your AIARE 1 in Colorado, you enter that course with the pre-requisite knowledge as the AIARE courses build on each other, from AIARE 1 through AIARE 3.

AIARE’s course curriculum is updated yearly as new knowledge and research brings new understanding.  Our courses are designed with a simple premise; provide participants with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions in avalanche terrain.