Established in 1998 as a nonprofit educational organization, AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) has been dedicated to developing an evidence-based avalanche education model for backcountry users. With the belief that avalanche education, research, and training can prevent injuries and fatalities, AIARE has been disseminating research-based avalanche curriculum to over 110 Providers nationwide, as well as in France, Chile, and Argentina. The organization also offers professional and avalanche instructor training courses.
The seed for AIARE was planted during a chance meeting between mountain guides in the California Sierra in 1992. AIARE co-founder Jean Pavillard taught courses for aspiring guides and noticed that their avalanche knowledge was somewhat uneven, attributing this to varying curriculum and quality among the avalanche education providers they’d learned from. Together with Karl Klassen, another mountain guide, they agreed that it was time for a unified approach to avalanche education. At the time, there was no nationally recognized curriculum despite the increasing popularity of backcountry recreation.
Tom Murphy, the course director for Pavillard’s guiding company, recognized the need for an organized framework for assessing risk and moving through avalanche terrain. Klassen applied his curriculum development experience from the Canadian Avalanche Association to assist Pavillard and Murphy with their avalanche courses, and from this collaboration, AIARE was born in 1998.
From the start, AIARE integrated national and international standards and incorporated a decision-makers’ approach to risk management in avalanche education. The organization initiated an instructor training program to maintain consistency among instructors and provide them with best practices for interacting with students. AIARE consults with qualified instructors when developing new curriculum and supplementary materials to ensure their products 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.
Today, AIARE curriculum provides avalanche education to more backcountry travelers than any other single avalanche education organization in the United States and trains over 100 new instructors every season. AIARE continues to develop standardized curricula for a complete program of avalanche courses that meets the needs of students at all levels, from recreational to professional, from novice to advanced.
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