Education Committee

Howie Schwartz

howie-sHowie Schwartz has been involved in avalanche education since 1996 and has been working to learn, teach, and develop AIARE curriculum since 1999. Howie is an AIARE Instructor Trainer, actively teaches AIARE 1, 2, & 3 courses as Course Leader and Instructor. Howie conceived of the original version of the AIARE decision making framework in 2003 and has delivered ISSW presentations on the topic of teaching decision making in avalanche terrain. He is an IFMGA/UIAGM Mountain Guide since 2001 and has guided professionally worldwide since 1997. Howie is co-owner of Sierra Mountain Guides, based in Bishop, California where he and his family reside. He serves on the Technical Committee for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and has been an Instructor/Examiner and Ski Program Coordinator designing and implementing curriculum for AMGA guide training programs since 2000. He was a founding director for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and is a Professional Member of the American Avalanche Association.

Margaret Wheeler

margaretMargaret Wheeler learned to ski and climb at an early age in New England, and became interested in ski mountaineering while living in Europe for several seasons. As a transplant to the Northwest, she guides ski mountaineering, alpine, and rock objectives. In 2006, Margaret became the second woman in the US to complete her full UIAGM guide certification. An active member of the guiding community, she is an instructor of guide training for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and serves on its board of directors and is a former president of the organization. She is involved in avalanche education through her work as an AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) instructor and trainer.

Liz Riggs Meder

liz-photoLiz Riggs Meder hails from Seattle where she works variously as a curriculum designer, outdoor and environmental educator, substitute teacher and part-time mountain guide. Liz began working with AIARE as a part of a project to complete her M. Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Washington. The project sought to increase instructional time by creating an online curriculum to complement AIARE I courses. This project has developed into the online learning program AIARE is currently creating for the 2014-2015 winter season. A lover of all forms of human powered exploration of the Cascades, Liz is now honing her skills in the art of carrying an infant while exploring the mountains.

Colin Zacharias


Colin Zacharias is a certified international mountain and ski guide (IFMGA) with several decades of experience in the avalanche industry. Likely many winter professionals Colin started with a ski area avalanche control operation, moved on to become the avalanche forecaster for the 1988 Winter Olympics, then spent a decade as a heliski guide. More recently he has consulted for various projects and organizations including ski areas, highways, public forecasting agencies, and guiding operations. Colin is a former technical director for the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) certificate program at Thompson Rivers University. From his home in Tofino, BC he has been the technical advisor for AIARE since 2004 and is a professional member of the ACMG, the Canadian Avalanche Association, and the American Avalanche Association.

Ben Pritchett

Ben Pritchett

Ben Pritchett lives in Crested Butte, Colorado where he spends his summers guiding and chasing his wife and  two kids around the mountains.  Ben began working on AIARE curriculum development projects in 2002 and joined AIARE as the Program Director in 2005.  His background includes 6 seasons as the Education Coordinator for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, 5 seasons forecasting for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, ski guiding since 1998, ski patrolling for Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and 15 years working on the snow safety crew for the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse race.  Ben holds an AMGA Ski Guide certification, and owns his own guide service Colorado Backcountry.  He is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association and a AAA Certified Avalanche Instructor.