About the class

Our Mission

Our instructors are a small community of volunteers who provide a valuable class for skiers who are making the
transition from resort skiing to backcountry skiing. Students learn to 
safely travel into, through, and out of the backcountry under their own power. Many students enjoy the WAC community and return in following seasons to help instruct the class.

This four-week course covers avalanche awareness, safe winter travel techniques, and winter camping. The class includes four evening lectures in Seattle and four weekends in
the mountains of Washington. 

No prior avalanche education is needed to take this course. While the avalanche education curriculum is similar to an AIARE level 1 course, the WAC is not affiliated with AIARE and we offer no certifications to students. This course is a good refresher if you have already taken a level 1 course, and should allow a skilled student to take a level 2 course in the future. 

2017 Class


Applications for the 2017 class are now closed.  2018 applications will be open in November 2017.

General Info

The cost of the course is $175, which does not include the cost of the WAC membership fee. Participants are responsible for bringing all of their own equipment.  Please look at the list of required gear before applying for the class.  Local rentals are available, but you may need to reserve well in advance of the class.   Also note that some of this equipment can be fairly expensive to rent.  For example, see the rates on the Gear Rentals page.

The class is open to alpine touring (AT or "randonee") skiers, and splitboarders 18 years and older. The class size will be 16-20 students. Each touring group will consist of 3-6 students who are using the same travel mode and two instructors.  For this reason, if we do not receive at least 3 splitboard applications, as occasionally happens, we will not accept splitboarders into the class.  

Most of our instructors are volunteers who are members of the WAC; we bring in professionals to lecture on avalanche safety.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. 

Requisite ski ability

Skiers & snowboarders should be at least of strong intermediate ability. This means the ability to descend black runs in most conditions. Skiers and snowboarders in this class will be skiing in the backcountry in the Cascades in the winter, where challenging snow conditions, trees, and other obstacles can present serious challenges. We'll do our best to accommodate skiers of various abilities, but those who are more comfortable in challenging conditions will probably find this class more enjoyable. 

We may ask that you join us for an in-bounds ski day before the class starts if you (or we) are not confident that you'll enjoy the class.  If this is the case, we'll contact you after reviewing your application.

Feel free to contact the co-chairs at wac-bc-chairs@googlegroups.com if you have questions about the class. 

2017 Schedule

Our schedule comprises one intro meeting, 4 Tuesday night lectures and 4 weekends.  Please note that because each session builds upon the previous one, we require applicants to attend all lectures and weekends.  For more details on the course schedule and course material, see the schedule and syllabus.

The ski tours on weekends two and three are day trips, however students must keep both Saturday and Sunday free because the choice of day will depend on weather and snow conditions.  The decision on which day we go will be made late in the preceding week.   We include one backup weekend in our schedule in case previous weekends are cancelled because of unsafe snow conditions.  Please keep this weekend available; we used the backup weekend in both 2013 and 2014, and tried to use it in 2016.

Because we cover fundamental safety skills in the first week, under no circumstances can we allow students who miss the first week's lecture or field trip to participate in following weekends.

Membership Requirement

Applicants must be a member of the WAC to take this class. You can join the WAC at the same time you apply for the class, or you can wait until you are accepted into the class to join the WAC.