For travel in avalanche terrain


Avalanche terrain and signs of instability


The skills of effective avalanche rescue

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course

Steamboat Powdercats offers AIARE (The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level I avalanche courses typically in early December and January.

The AIARE Level 1 avalanche course is designed as an introductory “stand-alone decision-makers course” for those planning on traveling and recreating in avalanche terrain. Our instructors are AIARE trained and qualified. The 24 hours of course work focuses on the basic skills necessary to manage your risk in the winter backcountry. These courses are 3-days long with the first day spent in the office and field, then the second and third day are fully spent in the field.

To be successful in this course, participants need to be comfortable in powder on Blue/Black runs at any ski area, and have a decent level of fitness as we will be hiking uphill with our skis and splitboards.

For the 2024/25 season, our avalanche course dates are:

December 20-22, 2024 – Friday/Saturday/Sunday

December 27-29, 2024 – Friday/Saturday/Sunday

January 3-5, 2025 – Friday/Saturday/Sunday

March 21-23 – Friday/Saturday/Sunday


  • Cost is $725/student

  • 2 instructors

  • Course materials (student manual and AIARE field book)

  • Snowcat transportation in and out of terrain, depending on course plan

  • AIARE certification

  • For more detailed information, course outline and equipment list, please give us a call at (970) 879-5188 or email us at with any questions.


  • Shovel

  • Probe

  • Beacon

  • Skis or splitboard

  • Food (except lots of coffee)

  • Transportation to and from SPC office and Buffalo Pass

  • We do have beacon, shovel and probes to rent for an additional $20/course. We don’t have AT skis, splitboards or skins to rent here. We suggest using Ski Haus, Backdoor Sports, or Christy Sports in Steamboat Springs if you need to rent these locally.

This Level 1 course utilizes the AIARE course curriculum. At the end of the course you will be able to:

• Plan and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain
• Recognize avalanche terrain
• Describe a basic framework for making decisions in avalanche terrain
• Learn and apply effective companion rescue

It is a starting point for anyone thinking of getting into backcountry skiing and riding. It’s also great for those who have already have backcountry experience, but have yet to truly hone their snow safety and rescue skills.

This three-day avalanche awareness course will introduce the avalanche phenomena (8-hours for 3 days).

This is more than an avalanche course as it will educate you to planning and preparation for travel in avalanche terrain, human factors, terrain recognition, “red flag” observations, terrain selection, travel techniques and basic companion rescue.

The goal will be to provide you with basic hazard management skills using rule based tools in combination with introductory knowledge based decision making tools…i.e. you will learn a lot!

This is a stand alone course and provides participants an intro to future avalanche instruction like the Level 2 AIARE course.

We utilize our snowcats to get quickly into our study areas in the field, thus maximizing our time to learn from the snow. Once out there, we will be traveling to different areas to get a varied picture of avalanche terrain and snow pack. And of course, we’ll do our best to get a few turns in as well!

For those looking for online avalanche education, please review the Know Before You Go website and learn some of the basics before you head out into the backcountry.

Know Before You Go

Buffalo Pass, located just north of the Steamboat Ski Area across Fish Creek Canyon, and is where Steamboat Powdercats has been operating our snowcat skiing tours since 1983.


This experience is for private cats only, from February 1st until the end of the season. Instead of finishing at 3:45 pm, we extend the tour to 4:45 pm and cat ski in the magic light of the Alpenglow.