Avalanche Course: AST 1

Canmore, Banff, Golden, or Rogers Pass, Canada

2-day Avalanche Safety Training (AST 1) following the course curriculum of Avalanche Canada and including the decision-making tool, “The Avaluator”

Avalanche Courses: AST 1 Highlights

  • Avalanche Canada standard curriculum
  • Avalanche Canada certificates for graduates
  • Can be combined with our ski and ice climbing trips
  • Beautiful mountain terrain in Western Canada
  • Introduction of the Avaluator

If you are backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, or snowmobiling, it is vital to take the time to learn about avalanches and their avoidance. After all, your family, friends, and co-workers all want you to return home safely after each backcountry adventure.

Whether you want to discover the joys of exploring the backcountry or want to play just outside the ski area boundaries, the 2-day Avalanche Skills Training 1 (AST 1) course is the one with which to start your avalanche education. The AST 1 course is meant to give the winter recreationalist tools for his or her own decision making in the planning phase as well as in the field. The course focuses on:

  • How avalanches form and release
  • Identification of avalanche terrain
  • The basics of trip planning
  • Using the decision-making tool, “The Avulator”
  • Using tools and resources such as avalanche forecasts to mitigate your risk
  • Using appropriate travel techniques in avalanche terrain
  • An introduction to companion rescue (transceiver search, shoveling techniques, and more)

We follow the standards and curriculum set by Avalanche Canada, and all graduates will receive an Avalanche Canada certificate after successful completion of the course.

AST 1 is a prerequisite for the 4-day Avalanche Skills Training 2 (AST 2) course. If you want to prepare for a career in the snow safety industry (eg. ACMG ski guides, ski patrol, public safety, heli-skiing, etc.), you will then also take the Avalanche Canada Levels 1 and 2 forecasting courses. These courses focus more on detailed snow pit work, recording standards, and forecasting tools.

Avalanche Safety Training 1 (AST 1) Course Curriculum

We will focus on the practical application of course content with lots of real-life examples and avalanche incident case studies. We also focus on interpreting avalanche forecasts, weather forecasts, and other web-based sources of information (eg. ACMG Mountain Conditions Report).

We will introduce Avalanche Canada’s decision-making tool called “The Avaluator”. Based on the terrain rating (simple, challenging, or complex) for your intended ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile tour and the hazard rating of the official avalanche forecast, the Avaluator will help you decide if you should undertake a particular trip that day or not. Throughout your backcountry adventure, the Avaluator card reminds you of adverse factors you might be encountering and helps you make good decisions whether to proceed or not. This tool provides an excellent, research-based approach to decision-making for winter backcountry recreationalists.

Avalanche Safety Training 1 (AST 1) – two days / 16 hours

Day 1: Classroom session

  • Introduction (objectives, signing of waivers) 0.3
  • Formation and nature of avalanches 0.5
  • Avalanche terrain 0.7
  • Factors affecting snow stability 0.5
  • Mountain snowpack – introduction 0.5
  • Winter backcountry travel 1.0
  • Assessing avalanche danger 0.5
  • Safety measures and self-rescue/transceivers 1.0
  • Video 1.0
  • Conclusion/evaluation by students 0.5

Total classroom time 6.5 hours

Day 2: Field day (morning)

  • Morning meeting, review of the weather forecast and the avalanche bulletin
  • Car-pool to trailhead.
  • Equipment check and transceiver test
  • Transceiver practice – single and multiple burials, small party self-rescue practice
  • Lunch break

Day 2: Field day (afternoon)

  • Stability evaluation: Snow pits (site selection, layer identification)
  • Shear tests (Rutschblock, compression, shovel, BURP)
  • Hasty tests (probing, hand shear, etc.)
  • Discussion about test limitations
  • Terrain recognition, route finding, safe travel techniques, hazard recognition
  • Group management and human factors
  • Group rescue scenarios, multiple burial, and probing
  • Course conclusion and critique

Detail and Logistics

Meeting Point & Time / Course Locations

Canmore Courses: 9 AM at the Summit Cafe, Benchland Trail close to Cougar Creek.
Banff Corses: 9 AM at the International Hostel.
Lake Louise: 9 AM at the Lake Louise International Alpine Hostel (HI and ACC).
Golden: 9 AM at the Kicking Horse Lodge (on the way to the ski hill).
Rogers Pass Courses: 8 AM PST or 9 AM MST – meeting point to be advised upon booking.
We also offer other locations on a custom basis.


Hugely variable! The early season courses (Nov – Feb) can be very cold (Min of -25C (=-13F), especially for the locations in the Rocky Mountains (Canmore and Lake Louise). The temperatures at rogers Pass tend to be more moderate with a minimum of -20C (=-4F). Average normal temperatures are around -10C (14 F).

Services Included in the Total Price

Instruction and guiding by an ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide, ACMG ski guide or assistant ski guide, all members of Avalanche Canada with avalanche forecasting training an certification. Use digital (= latest generation) avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe, technical supplies such as crystal screen, loop etc. All Avalanche Canada course materials including the “Avaluator” decision tool as well as the instructional manual: Backcountry Avalanche Awareness by Bruce Jamieson, 7th Edition.

We will gladly quote you all-inclusive prices with lodging and air port pick up / drop off and all other land transport or we can assist you in making reservations for the lodging and transport option of your choice.

Not Included Are

Land transport (although particpants might be able to catch a ride with guide at cost), lodging and food, rental of ski touring equipment or snow shoes.

Can I Do It?

You must be able to travel at a moderate pace on backcountry ski touring equipment (or split board) during the field days. On a custom trip basis, we also offer courses for snowmobilers and snowshoers.


Why book with us?

Please be aware that there are significant differences in the qualifications of avalanche course instructors. Some AST 1 instructors have only the minimum required qualification of an Avalanche Canada Level 1 Operations course — not an avalanche forecasting course or guide certification. Also, group sizes of up to 20 students are commonplace in many avalanche courses.

Here is what we offer

Our instructors are certified ACMG mountain and/or ski guides or assistant ski guides and Avalanche Canada professional members with at least 10 years of professional experience including operational avalanche forecasting. Our field days take place in interesting ski touring terrain in either provincial or national parks. Instructors who are not certified ACMG guides will not be able to take you inside any parks. Our group sizes do not exceed eight participants, and they are often between four and six, allowing for highly personalized attention.

Gear List for Avalanche Courses as Downloadable .PDF


Technical Equipment

Bring the following, or rent it (see ‘Trip Info Links’ on the right side of this page):

 Alpine touring (or telemark*) skis and ski boots, or a splitboard
 Ski poles
 Climbing skins (stick-on), fitted to your skis or splitboard

*Only bring telemark skis if you are an advanced telemark skier with experience in the backcountry.

If you do not have one or more of the following items, you can rent them from the listed retailers or OnTop can provide them. Please book in advance.

 Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver
 Lightweight snow shovel
 Avalanche probe (two to three meters long)

Bring the following:

 Daypack (35-45 liters)
 Repair kit and Leatherman (can be shared between several people)
 Spare parts specific to your equipment

Temperatures in the western Canadian mountains vary hugely. Between December and February, temperatures can be well below 0°C during the day and drop as low as –30°C overnight. Between March and May, it can be above freezing during the day with overnight lows not normally going below –10°C. Bring warmer clothing and more pairs of gloves than you would normally bring on a winter day trip. We will at times be standing around having discussions or observing others. Having several clothing layering options is important.

 Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or similar)
 Down jacket or very warm PrimaLoft jacket
 Wind and waterproof over-pants (Gore-Tex or similar)
 Warm pants (eg. lined Schoeller fabric)
 Thick fleece or wool pullover, or lighter weight PrimaLoft jacket
 Medium weight fleece shirt
 Thin synthetic or wool underwear, top and bottoms
 Three or four pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
 Scarf or neck gaiter (eg. Buff)
 Socks (synthetic or wool, thick outer and thin liners)
 Wool or fleece hat that covers your ears
 Gaiters that fit over your ski boot (unless pants seal tightly to your boots)
 Sun hat, preferably with a wide rim
 Bandana (optional)

Lodging comforts

 Spare underwear and socks
 Sleeping bag or sheet (depending on accommodation)
 Earplugs (optional)
 Full set of toiletries, town clothes and footwear for your chosen accommodation

Other items

 Sunglasses with high UV protection
 Ski goggles with high UV protection
 Sunscreen and lip protection with high SPF
 One-litre water bottle with an insulator. Water bladders not recommended
 Thermos (optional, but recommended)
 Headlamp with spare battery
 Lunch and snacks (eg. sandwiches, candy bars, dried fruit, nuts, etc.). You will also be on your own for breakfasts and dinners.
 Personal first aid kit and other needs (eg. blister kit, prescription medicine, anti-inflammatory, contact lenses, prescription glasses, etc.)
 Pocket knife (optional)
 Health and travel insurance documents
 Rain cover specific to your pack, or large plastic bag
 Light stuff sacs or Ziploc bags to keep your backpack organized and important items dry (optional)
 Rain cover specific to your pack, or large plastic bag
 Camera, spare batteries (optional)
 Compass, maps, GPS (optional)
 Waterproof notebook (eg. Rite in the Rain) and waterproof pen or #2 pencil
 Ski wax / skin wax (optional)
 Hand sanitizer or sanitary hand wipes


Moderate pace on backcountry ski touring equipment (or split board) during the field day.

2018 / 2019 DATES

We can set up an AST 1 course for your group or family (minimum four people) at a time that suits you. Courses can be based out of Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Golden, or Revelstoke. Contact us!

  • Group of 4: $350 + GST per person
  • Group of 5: $310 + GST per person
  • Group of 6: $280 + GST per person
  • Group of 7: $250 + GST per person
  • Group of 8: $230 + GST per person

Included: Guide + guide expenses, use of avalanche safety gear, technical supplies, and Avalanche Canada course materials.

Extra: land transport, lodging, food, rental of ski touring equipment or snowshoes, ski hill passes.

On request, we can quote you in your preferred currency

Client / Guides
  • minimum 4 participants
  • maximum 8 participants