Prior to AIARE, there was no nationally recognized curriculum for avalanche education in the USA. The American Avalanche Association (A3) has “recommended guidelines” that AIARE adheres to however the A3 distributes no unified curriculum. We support the A3and all AIARE instructors are members of the A3. There are many avalanche courses and programs available but in large part, course providers operate according to their own personal beliefs and ideas. There are few means for the public to assess the quality of an avalanche course or instructor.
AIARE was formed to address this situation. We have developed and continue to develop standardized curriculum for a complete program of avalanche courses that meets the needs of students at all levels, from recreational to professional and from novice to advanced. We have created and continue to create course materials for instructors and students to maximize the effectiveness of both teachers and learners. We require instructors to meet pre-requisites and attend training sessions before they are allowed access to AIARE materials and curriculum. In addition, instructors are required to sign an agreement stating they will abide by the guidelines established by AIARE and they are required to attend regular refreshers to maintain their currency and improve their avalanche knowledge, instructional skills, and their understanding of the evolving AIARE curriculum and materials.
The standards and guidelines developed by AIARE are not unilateral declarations by an elite group. Where applicable, AIARE standards and guidelines adhere to existing national and international standards such as those developed by the American Avalanche Association and the Canadian Avalanche Association. In addition, AIARE consults with qualified instructors when developing new curriculum or materials so the products we develop and distribute are based on a wide variety of experience, background, and knowledge. The result is a consensus driven process that has produced an avalanche education program and training courses that meet the needs of the trainers and course participants alike.
Because the AIARE curriculum and materials are not owned by a private, for-profit organization they can be disseminated to people who share our educational philosophy and who meet the requirements for qualification as an instructor. By making our products available to anyone who qualifies, we hope to stimulate healthy competition in the marketplace based not on curriculum or quality of materials but on delivery, venues, and instructor quality; we feel this will result in a better education for students.
The end result is that you, as a consumer need not be concerned about the curriculum you will be taught or the materials that will be used or provided when you sign up for AIARE avalanche training. You can rest assured you’ll get the same information from any AIARE course or instructor no matter where you take your course. Rather than wasting time shopping for a good curriculum and quality materials, leave that to AIARE; you can concentrate on finding a course that has a location, venue, and instructor team that meets your personal needs.
Finally, you as a student have a means to influence the ongoing evolution of the program, the courses, the materials, and the instructors. Course providers are required to report student feedback to AIARE on a regular basis and students have direct access to AIARE if they wish to voice concerns, give feedback, or provide ideas for improvements.
In 1992, Jean Pavillard, AIARE Co-Founder, was instructing guides courses for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). During a spring course in the California Sierra, he met visiting guide, Karl Klassen, and his chance meeting led to the eventual formation of AIARE.
Karl and Jean were fully certified IFMGA guides, Karl from Canada and Jean from Switzerland, living in Crested Butte, Colorado at the time. From the start, they both agreed the guide candidates presented an uneven avalanche knowledge during their California courses.
The United States had no nationally recognized curriculum although the American Avalanche Association (A3) had published avalanche course guidelines. While many excellent avalanche course providers existed, avalanche education lacked consistency across providers. Consequently, candidates came with varying degrees of knowledge.
Meanwhile, backcountry recreation was becoming increasingly popular. More and more, people were heading into avalanche terrain and could see the benefits of education on risk mitigation in the backcountry.
Tom Murphy was course director for Jean’s guiding company, Adventures to the Edge in Crested Butte, Colorado, and he, as well, 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. With Karl’s course curriculum development experience from the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA), he began assisting Tom and Jean with their avalanche courses in Crested Butte. AIARE was born from this collaboration. Course providers began to hear about AIARE, and they became interested in the development of the 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 instructors, presenters of the curriculum, consistent 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 United States.