AIARE Professional Growth Network

Despite making up over 30% of AIARE recreational students, women, non-binary, and genderqueer folks represent only about 15% of AIARE’s pool of instructors. In addition to the challenges posed by gender bias (and others for folks with intersecting identities like racialized, LGBTQIA2S+, adaptive, caregivers, etc.)...

...being (or becoming) a snow and avalanche professional is just plain hard! You have to:

🚨 manage a wide range of risks
📝 teach diverse groups of students
🔬 build and maintain a strong base of technical knowledge and skills
⚖️ find a practical balance with work
🙅🏽‍♀️ navigate bias and discrimination and practice allyship
❅  and sustain your winter stoke. That’s why you’re here, after all!

...being (or becoming) a snow and avalanche professional is just plain hard! You have to:

🚨 manage a wide range of risks
📝 teach diverse groups of students
🔬 build and maintain a strong base of technical knowledge and skills
⚖️ find a practical balance with work
🙅🏽‍♀️ navigate bias and discrimination and practice allyship
❅  and sustain your winter stoke. That’s why you’re here, after all!

AIARE’s Professional Growth Network (PGN) helps you build the knowledge base and support network you need to navigate the industry and its challenges. Through AIARE’s PGN, you can:

  • Supplement your professional training with a season-long cohort experience, including peers from your region
  • Tune in for an evening of virtual camaraderie to get some insight on navigating everyday work challenges
  • Join for a day out on the snow to ride and learn together with peers and experienced professionals

Thank you so much for running this program!! The mentors and all the folks at AIARE were wonderful and supportive. I got so much out of this program and even now I can feel how impactful this was for my personal growth and career trajectory.

—23/24 mentee

I wasn't totally sure what I wanted out of this program or what my goals were in this industry, but I hoped that this program would point me in the right direction. Not only did I find direction, but I got ‘permission’ to want to work in this industry and pursue becoming an avalanche educator. It's pretty amazing how empowering it can be to get some simple validation and find mentors that believe in you! Thank you for running this program!

—23/24 mentee

I am very thankful for the connections I made through this program, because it is a very small industry we work in, and I believe these connections are people I will know for a long time…It is a wonderful way to encourage diversity and disrupt the current industry standard. THANK YOU!!

—23/24 mentee

"Thank you so much for running this program!! The mentors and all the folks at AIARE were wonderful and supportive. I got so much out of this program and even now I can feel how impactful this was for my personal growth and career trajectory."

—23/24 mentee

"I wasn't totally sure what I wanted out of this program or what my goals were in this industry, but I hoped that this program would point me in the right direction. Not only did I find direction, but I got ‘permission’ to want to work in this industry and pursue becoming an avalanche educator. It's pretty amazing how empowering it can be to get some simple validation and find mentors that believe in you! Thank you for running this program!"

—23/24 mentee

"I am very thankful for the connections I made through this program, because it is a very small industry we work in, and I believe these connections are people I will know for a long time…It is a wonderful way to encourage diversity and disrupt the current industry standard. THANK YOU!!"

—23/24 mentee

What is AIARE’s Professional Growth Network?

The Professional Growth Network’s mission is to support U.S. snow and avalanche professionals of all levels who are from non-dominant gender identities by providing opportunities for community building, skill and knowledge development, and increased representation. The PGN accomplishes this through a blend of application-based cohort opportunities and public events that include virtual, in-person, and on-snow elements.

For the past three seasons, AIARE’s Professional Growth Network was known as the Women’s Mentorship Program. Check out our FAQ to learn more about why we’ve changed the program name and what that change means for the program.

Cohort Experience

The AIARE Professional Growth Network’s application-based regional cohorts:

  • Provide a regionally-based, season-long experience for select participants
  • Create a venue for participants to connect, learn, and grow both technical skills as well as their personal and professional communities
  • Focus primarily on goal setting, building interpersonal connections, and identifying strategies for success
  • Include access to:
    • Seven cohort sessions that blend virtual and in-person formats
    • Backcountry opportunities with hands-on skills practice 
    • Comped lift tickets for each cohort for an in-bounds ride day
    • Virtual affinity sessions as well as access to affinity-based group chats for BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and motorized participants.
      • Other opportunities may be added depending on interest
  • Provide a regionally-based, season-long experience for select participants
  • Create a venue for participants to connect, learn, and grow both technical skills as well as their personal and professional communities
  • Focus primarily on goal setting, building interpersonal connections, and identifying strategies for success
  • Include access to:
    • Seven cohort sessions that blend virtual and in-person formats
    • Backcountry opportunities with hands-on skills practice 
    • Comped lift tickets for each cohort for an in-bounds ride day
    • Virtual affinity sessions as well as access to affinity-based group chats for BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and motorized participants.
      • Other opportunities may be added depending on interest

The 24/25 season cohort opportunities are:

  • California + Nevada (capacity: 1 mentor // 7 mentee)
  • Colorado (capacity: 2 mentors // 14 mentees)
  • Idaho, Montana, + Wyoming (capacity: 2 mentors // 14 mentees)
  • Oregon + Washington (capacity: 2 mentors // 14 mentees)
  • Utah (capacity: 1 mentor // 7 mentees)
Photo courtesy of Melissa Guba. Pictured left to right: Katie Pistello, Danielle Eckert, Eline Kok, Melissa Guba
Photo courtesy of Melissa Guba. Pictured left to right: Katie Pistello, Danielle Eckert, Eline Kok, Melissa Guba

24/25 Public Events Schedule

In addition to application-based cohorts, AIARE’s Professional Growth Network offers public events each season. Public events provide opportunities for a wider array of individuals to connect with each other and AIARE’s incredible community of snow and avalanche professionals.

Depending on the event, public events may be open to everyone or limited by identity or affiliation. Some events may recommend a certain level of prerequisite skill or experience. Below you can find details for current offerings.

Backcountry Opportunities

For the 24/25 season, the Professional Growth Network—in collaboration with AIARE Providers and other industry organizations—will host nine backcountry mentorship opportunities. These opportunities are open to those who hold an underrepresented gender identity. This includes, but is not limited to, those who identify as women, transfemme, transmasc, nonbinary, two-spirit, agender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and/or other marginalized gender identity.

*Priority placement is given to current PGN mentees. Any spaces not filled by program participants will open to the public and be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Alaska

Details TBA

Colorado

Details TBA

Idaho

Details TBA

Northeast

Details TBA

Oregon

Details TBA

Tahoe

Details TBA

Utah

Details TBA

Washington

Details TBA

Wyoming

Details TBA

Virtual Affinity Sessions

Each facilitated virtual affinity session features conversational prompts, small breakout rooms, and a share out about recommended resources. Sessions are free of charge. However, donations to support the Professional Growth Network’s future efforts are welcome. Learn more about each session, and sign up, below.

BIPOC Session

Wednesday, 1/29 // 6:30-8pm MT

This affinity session is a time for people who are underrepresented in the snow and avalanche industry to connect, recharge, and share strategies for success and community care. 

Additional details TBA

Who should attend? This session is reserved for individuals who identify as BIPOC, racialized, people of the global majority, or other related identity. Open to all genders.

LGBTQIA2S+ Session

Wednesday, 2/5 // 6:30-8pm MT

This affinity session is a time for people who are underrepresented in the snow and avalanche industry to connect, recharge, and share strategies for success and community care. 

Additional details TBA

Who should attend? This session is reserved for individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA2S+ or other related community. Open to all genders.

Open Affinity Mini-Session

Wednesday, 2/12 // 6:30-7:15pm

While race, gender, and sexuality are common areas of focus for affinity offerings, there are a multitude of other groups facing their own unique challenges within the snow and avalanche industry. And that have unique contributions to make! This affinity session is a time for these folks to connect, recharge, and share strategies for success and community care. Additionally, it will discuss tools and strategies for building solidarity across communities and experiences, including through discussion of historic and current industry examples.

Additional details TBA

Who should attend? This mini-session is reserved for those who directly experience ableism, classism, anti-fat bias, ageism, caregiver discrimination, and/or other forms of discrimination and marginalization. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals who attended previous affinity sessions are also welcome to join. Open to all genders.

Allyship Mini-Session

Wednesday 2/12 // 7:25-8:10pm MT

This mini-session is focused on the practice of allyship, including tools and strategies for leveraging individual privilege and power in service of collective liberation as well as resources specific to the snow and avalanche industry.

Additional details TBA

Who should attend? This mini-session is reserved for those from all walks of life who are interested in learning about and practicing allyship.

Other Opportunities at AIARE

The Professional Growth Network isn’t the only way AIARE supports gender equity. AIARE also offers affinity PRO and instructor training courses as well as scholarships, including gender-specific and motorized offerings.

Already an AIARE Instructor or industry professional? Browse AIARE’s collection of continuing education materials, including webinars on a variety of topics, such as “Worker Wellness in the Avalanche Industry.”

If you’re looking for a recreational avalanche course, many AIARE Providers operate affinity programs. Find a provider and course near you using AIARE’s search tool.

FAQ

For the first three seasons, AIARE’s Professional Growth Network was known as the Women’s Mentorship Program. With the guidance and support of a dedicated working group as well as other community members, AIARE has updated the program for this fourth season to include individuals from all marginalized gender identities, including those who identify as transfemme, transmasc, genderqueer or gender non-conforming, women, and others. This shift included changing the name of the program, adding a pre-season training element to support mentors and mentees, scheduling additional dedicated affinity opportunities, and deepening community connections through collaboration. With feedback from the season, we look forward to re-assembling the working group and assessing the effectiveness of these changes at the end of the 24/25 season, including making a plan for continuing to improve moving forward.

Special thanks to Devin Gaan, Amy Smallwood, and Angelique Carl for lending their expertise and lived experience to the working group.

Different Professional Growth Network public events are open to different audiences. Check out the details of each opportunity for a breakdown of who is invited to participate.

The PGN cohort experience is open to all those from underrepresented gender identities including, but not limited to, those who identify as women, transfemme, transmasc, nonbinary, two-spirit, agender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and/or other marginalized gender identity.

At this time, we ask cisgender men not to apply to the cohort experience in order to dedicate this opportunity to those who experience gender-based discrimination and disparities. However, cisgender men are encouraged to attend select public events that are open to all or align with another aspect of their identity (e.g. BIPOC affinity session). Your allyship is appreciated as we seek to reduce gender disparities in the snow and avalanche industry through affinity programs such as these! 

If you have questions about whether or not a particular event is the right fit for you, please email Azissa Singh (azissa.singh@avtraining.org).

Become a Supporter

Donations to the Professional Growth Network enable AIARE to compensate mentors fairly, provide scholarships for mentees, and host public opportunities. Support the program now by mentioning the Professional Growth Network when you donate.

There are also other ways to support, including by shopping the AIARE store and asking your employer about workplace giving.

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