Instructor Training Team

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jake Urban

Jake-uAs an undergraduate professor, guide, program director, corporate trainer and business owner, I have been teaching in the outdoors for the past 20 years. With my wife and business partner, Marilynn Davis, we own and operate Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, LLC. an educational think tank devoted to developing curriculum in the areas of avalanche education and emergency and wilderness medical training.
Currently, I am an Adjunct Faculty member at Central Wyoming College, American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 1 & 2 Course Leader and Instructor Trainer, American Mountain Guides (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT), Outdoor Emergency Care Technician (OEC), American Heart Association Instructor, American Red Cross Instructor, National Ski Patroller and Deputy Director & Training Advisor for Teton County Search and Rescue.
I support the interests of education through my involvement as a member of the Education Review Committee for the American Avalanche Association and Advisory Board Member and Program Assistant for AIARE. In my free time you can find me riding my bike and climbing around Jackson Hole.

Jonathon Spitzer

jonathon-sJonathon is originally from the Northwest and grew up skiing, climbing, and playing in the North Cascades, WA.  In 2000, Jonathon attended Western State College of Colorado where he received a B.A in Recreation and Business.  After college his education with the American Mountain Guide Association and became a fully certified guide (IFMGA) in Ski, Rock and Alpine disciplines.  He has been guiding for the last decade leading expeditions around the world to including trips to Alaska, Himalayas, and Europe.  Jonathon has been apart of the AIARE organization since 2005 teaching both AIARE 1 and AIARE 2 programs in the Western US.  Jonathon is currently a lead guide at Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski Lodge along with being a part of the AMGA instructor team.

Larry Goldie

Larry-gLarry linked his first turns in deep Powder at Mt Baker in 1989 and has worked in the ski industry every winter since then. He currently spends his winters in Mazama, WA where he divides his time between guiding backcountry skiing for his company, North Cascades Mountain Guides and guiding heli skiing and running the snow safety program at NC Heli.  Larry is an IFMGA mountain guide and instructor/examiner for the American Mountain Guides Association.



Erica Engle

erica-engle-smErica is an IFMGA/UIAGM licensed mountain guide, AAA professional member and AIARE trainer team member currently based in Jackson, Wyoming.  She hails from Washington state, where she learned to ski and climb in the Cascade Mountains.  Erica has worked professionally in the mountains since 2003, in various roles, as a climbing ranger, ski patroller, avalanche educator and ski, rock and alpine guide.  She splits her time between Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Nevada and internationally, in ranges around the world.  Erica has a background in landscape, forest, and fisheries ecology, with a BS in Environmental Science from Western Washington University.  She is also an athlete ambassador for Outdoor Research and a passionate adventurer intent on connecting people to the incredible natural world around us.

Travis Feist

travis-fTravis grew up skiing in the Adirondacks, and moved to Colorado after high school to explore bigger mountains. He experienced his first Tahoe snowstorm while on a cross country motorcycle trip, and decided to stick around. Travis has been working in the snow ever since; as a guide, pro patroller, and now splitting his time as the Training Coordinator for AIARE, an Observer for the Sierra Avalanche Center, and guiding and teaching in South America in the “off” season. Skiing and motorsports have remained common threads for Travis, both in work and play.

Nancy Bockino

nancy-b-bio-imageNancy Bockino grew up in the mountains of Idaho, Montana and Washington. She began climbing, backcountry skiing and working as a field ecologist in the early 1990’s. Nancy moved from the Cascades to Jackson Hole Wyoming in 2000 and fell in love with the mountains, whitebark pine trees and the local community. Nancy keeps quite busy working as an ecologist caring for whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an AIARE Level 1 and 2 Course Leader, a member of the AIARE Instructor Trainer Team, a professional member of the AAA, a part-time guide for Exum Mountain Guides, an instructor for Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, an EMT and member of Teton County Search and Rescue and the rescue team at Grand Teton National Park. Nancy also has a teaching certificate and a graduate degree in Ecology and Botany. Gratefully so, Nancy spends nearly every single day in the mountains. She has a passion for sharing the experience of the blissful freedom, happiness and empowerment that comes with knowing how to respectfully travel through and play in the mountains.

Tim Brown

tim-b-bioTim Brown has been involved with AIARE since its inception and joined the AIARE Instructor Training Team in 2008. Tim brings a broad perspective to the team as a veteran Level 1 and 2 AIARE Course Leader, fully-certified AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide, former CAIC Avalanche Forecaster, and experienced backcountry and mechanized ski guide. He has taught AIARE courses to skiers, snowboarders, alpinists, snowmobilers, and ski patrollers in a wide variety of terrain in seven states and helped numerous course providers establish successful avalanche education programs. Tim leads AIARE Level 1 & 2 Instructor Training and Refresher Courses, where he strives to facilitate meaningful and collaborative discussions among his colleagues.

Sarah Carter

sarah-carter-bioGrowing up in Anchorage, Alaska, Sarah got her first backcountry turns as a teenager at Hatcher and Thompson Passes. Knowing snow was a challenge she sought through seasons of ski bumming in Alaska, Wyoming, and British Columbia. A logical progression was getting paid to ski – she patrolled at Red Mountain, BC and Eaglecrest in Juneau, Alaska. Life went full circle when she had the opportunity to work snow safety for a heli operation in Valdez. There she resides with her husband and two young boys who share her passion for winter. She works as a forecaster for Valdez Avalanche Center, is the Education Coordinator for the Alaska Avalanche Information Center, and instructs for Backcountry Babes, Prince William Sound College, and the University of Alaska.

Diego Allolio

diego-bioDiego Allolio first saw the Patagonia Andes at the age of eight and knew then he would have a lifelong love affair with those mountains. Growing up in Buenos Aires, rugby and soccer were the go to sports however he choose skiing in order to get closer to the mountains.
In 1998 he became a mountaineering instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and followed that with becoming an Argentine Mountain Guide (AAGM). In 2010 Diego began working with the American Instititute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) in an effort to bring a Spanish language versión of avalanche education to South America.
Diego is an AIARE 1 and AIARE 2 Course Leader and Instructor Trainer. He owns and operates Aprendica Outdoor Training which is an AIARE course provider and organizes Expeditions for Magellanica Journeys of Exploration.
He lives in Bariloche with his wife and three border collies. When not skiing he instructs costal kyaking with the American Canoe Association, rides his road and mountain bikes and works on his Telemark technique.

Colin Mitchell

colin-mitchell-bioColin grew up in New England, and learned to ski in Vermont and upstate New York. In 1995, he moved to Colorado, and discovered powder skiing, big mountains, and climbing skins. Avalanche work has taken him around the world, and he has worked in the Himalaya, as Snow Safety Officer at Gulmarg Gondola, in South America as an avalanche forecaster for the mining industry, and in Colorado as a ski patroller and avalanche forecaster. He has been teaching avalanche courses since 2005, and is an AIARE Level One and Level Two course leader, and a 3A Certified Instructor. Since 2012, Colin has been working for Aprendica, bringing AIARE courses to Argentina and Chile, and helping develop the Spanish language curriculum. During the northern winter, he works as an avalanche forecaster with the CAIC.

Matt Wade

matt-wA native of Minnesota, Matt grew up skiing in the hills of the Midwest.  While attending college in Washington State, Matt was introduced to the big mountains and he never looked back.  He is the founder and owner of Peak Mountain Guides in Ouray, Colorado and he now works year round as a climbing and skiing guide.  He is certified by the AMGA as a ski mountaineering and rock guide, and he holds a BS in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University.  When he’s not in the mountains, Matt enjoys spending time with his wife, Megan, and his two boys, Drew and Ryan.


Erik Leidecker

EricErik Leidecker grew up in Ketchum, Idaho and attended Dartmouth College, where he was an English/Writing major and a member of the varsity alpine ski team. He is an American/IFMGA Mountain Guide (American Mountain Guides Association/International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations) and he owns and operates Idaho-based Sawtooth Mountain Guides.  In addition to working for AIARE, Erik is also an instructor/examiner for the AMGA and a member of the Eddie Bauer/First Ascent Ski Guide Team.  He lives in Hailey, Idaho with his wife Gretchen and daughters Sascha and Svea.


Aaron Ball

aaron-bAaron Ball has been skiing since the late 1970’s when he would burn through numerous gloves a season on the local rope tow. After several years of skiing deep powder on really skinny skis and surviving his early backcountry skiing career through mostly ignorance and good luck, he became a ski patroller at Mammoth Mountain where he quickly learned about the dangers and intricacies of avalanches. During the six seasons he worked there, Aaron served as an avalanche control route leader, often shot a really big gun, and was active in the avalanche and snow study program. Additionally, he spent many days exploring the backcountry of the Eastern Sierra. In 2005, Aaron moved to Durango, CO, where he has been working for San Juan Mountain Guides (and previously Southwest Adventure Guides) as an alpine/ski guide and AIARE Level 1 and 2 avalanche course leader. He is currently working his way through the AMGA certification process. In 2012, Aaron completed his master’s degree in adventure education where he studied risk management and decision-making in outdoor leaders. He owns Southwest Rescue where he teaches rescue education including wilderness medicine (WMTC) and swiftwater rescue (Rescue 3). He also works for Fort Lewis College as an adjunct faculty and coordinates program operations. He lives outside of Durango with his partner and their two children.

Scott Schell

scott-sScott Schell is the Program Director for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center in Seattle, Washington. As a certified American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ski Mountaineering Guide, Scott has guided throughout the United States, Alaska, Canada, and Europe. He’s a former AMGA ski discipline instructor and currently serves on the AMGA Board of Directors.
An avid ski mountaineer, Scott has been involved in avalanche and guiding education for the past 17 years. He’s an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).
Scott is the co-author of Backcountry Skiing, Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering (Mountaineers Press, 2007).

 Brad Sawtell

brad-sBrad moved from the Breckenridge, Colorado area to the Pacific Northwest (specifically, the Methow Valley) with his wife about three years ago. He works as a ski guide for North Cascades Mountain Guides and North Cascade Heli. Prior to moving to the PNW, he worked as an Avalanche Forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the Wilderness Program Director for the High Mountain Institute, senior staff at the National Outdoor Leadership School, and as a mountain guide. He served on the Advisory Board for the American Avalanche Association as the Certified Instructor Representative and on the A3 Education Committee. In his “off” season, he works with his other favorite “changeable medium”; wood. He is an A3 Professional Member as well as a Certified Instructor.

John MacKinnon

john-bio-picJohn lives in Leadville, CO and has been involved in the guiding and outdoor education industry for over a decade. He got his start with AIARE while living in Crested Butte, CO where he worked as an avalanche instructor, ski guide, and avalanche forecaster. John is an AMGA certified Rock and Ski Guide, has a B.A. in Geosciences from Williams College and is a professional member of the AAA. When he’s not working John enjoys reading, eating large breakfasts and running around the high country with his fiancée and their impulsive blue heeler.



Tom Carter

tom-c-bioTom Carter (TC) has spent his life on skis. He began his ski guiding career in the Eastern Sierra backcountry in the early 1980’s. In the spring of 1983 he ski toured in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada and ended up spending 30 winters guiding for Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski.
“Skiing is my passion, I enjoy every day in the mountains. There are always changes, surprises, something to learn about the snow, the mountains, yourself”!
Last year TC retired from his position at RMH and spent his first winter at home in North Tahoe working for the Slide Snow School and patrolling at Mt Rose.
Tom is a Certified AMGA Ski Mountaineering & Rock Guide, AAA Certified Instructor and a HeliUS Level 3 Guide in addition to being an AIARE 1 & 2 Course Leader, AIARE 3 Course Instructor and AIARE Instructor Trainer.

Dallas Glass

dallas-glass-bioAfter completing his master’s degree Dallas began to split his time working in Alaska as a wilderness ecologist and at Mt Rose Ski Tahoe as the avalanche forecaster. After five years of avalanche forecasting in the Sierra, Dallas moved to the Seattle area where he works year-round as a mountain guide and avalanche professional. Dallas is involved in the avalanche/snow science industry on both regional and national levels. He works regionally for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) as the field observer for Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, and Mt Rainier areas. On the national level, Dallas served as the Professional Training Coordinator for the American Avalanche Association and coordinates AAA’s professional level AVPRO course. Dallas enjoys the opportunity to teach at all levels of avalanche education from short avalanche awareness courses to AIARE Level 3s and everything in between.

Josh Hirshberg

josh-h-bioJosh grew up skiing the icy slopes of New Hampshire. A passion for the outdoors has shaped his career path. For over a decade he has guided, taught, and forecasted avalanches throughout Colorado and as far off as South America. Working in the mountains has provided Josh with endless opportunities for learning and teaching others. Josh has been teaching AIARE curriculum since 2005 and after a number of guest appearances officially joined the Instructor Training Team in 2015. He guides for Peak Mountain Guides in Ouray, CO and has previously worked for The Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Crested Butte Mountain Guides, The Crested Butte Avalanche Center, and Aspen Expeditions. Josh holds a B.A. in Social Ecology and Snow Studies from Prescott College. He has training from the AMGA in the Rock and Ski disciplines and is an AIARE 1 and 2 avalanche Course Leader.  When not skiing Josh enjoys biking, climbing, photography, and supporting social justice movements.