Avalanche Courses: AST 1

Canmore, Banff, Golden or Rogers Pass / Canada

2 Day Avalanche Safety Courses (AST 1) following the Avalanche Canada Curriculum, including the decision making tool: “The Avaluator”

Avalanche Courses: AST 1 Highlights

  • Avalanche Canada Standard Curriculum
  • Avalanche Canada Certificates for Graduates
  • Combinable with our ski and ice trips
  • Beautiful National Park Terrain
  • Introduction of the Avaluator

Regardless if you are ski touring, snow shoeing, ice climbing or snow mobiling, you should take the time to educate yourself about avalanche hazard.

After all, it’s for your safety! We offer both, the 2 day level 1 (16 hrs) Avalanche Safety Course (AST 1) following the standards set by Avalanche Canada. All graduates will receive a Avalanche Canada diploma after completion.

The AST course format focuses on avalanche hazard recognition and avoidance and it is meant to give the recreationalist tools for his / her own decision making in the planning phase as well as in the field.

The courses are also prerequisites for the Avalanche Canada level 1 and 2 forecasting courses, which are meant to prepare for careers in the snow safety industry (ski patrol, public safety, heli-skiing…..) and focus more on detailed snow pit work, recording standards and forecasting tools.


Avalanche Safety Training (AST) Courses Curriculum

For all our courses, we focus on the practical application of the course content with lots of practical examples and accident case studies. Another focus is on interpretation of the avalanche bulletin, the weather forecast and other web-based sources of information (ACMG Mountain Conditions Report).

New since the 2006 / 2007 season is a Canadian decision making tool
called “The Avaluator”.

Based on the terrain rating for your intended ski or snowmobile tour (simple, challenging and complex) in combination with the hazard rating of the official avalanche bulletin, the Avaluator will help you decide if you should do a particular trip or not.
During a trip, the avaluator card reminds you of adverse factors that you might be encountering and again helps you with your decision making as to proceed or not.
While common in Europe, this “decision framework” is a revolutionary, research-based approach to decision making for winter backcountry recreationalists in North America – we are very excited about introducing this new tool to our students!

Avalanche Safety Training 1 (2 Days – 16 hrs)

Day 1: Classroom day (see curriculum below)

Day 2: Field Day – Itinerary (Curriculum below):


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


  • Stability Evaluation: Snow pits (site selection, layer identification).
  • Shear tests (rutschblock, compression, shovel, burp)
  • Hasty tests (probing, hand shear etc.)
  • 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

AST 1 Curriculum – Topics and Allocated Time
(in accordance with the standard set by the Avalanche Canada)

1) Day 1: Classroom Sessions HRS
Introduction (Objectives, Waivers) 0.3
Formation and Nature of Avalanches 0.5
Avalanche Terrain 0.7
Factors Affecting Snow Stability 0.5
Mountain Snow pack – Introduction 0.5
Winter Back country 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 class Room Time 6.5

2) Day 2: Field Sessions
Terrain Recognition
Route Finding
Safe Travel
Group Management
Stability Evaluation
Hazard Recognition
Small Party Self Rescue

Total Field Time 10.0

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 of large differences in the qualification of instructors for avalanche courses offered in the market. Some instructors who teach the Avalanche Canada format AST 1 course have only the minimum required qualification of a Avalanche Canada level 1 Operations course – not a forecasting course or guide certification. Also, group sizes of up to 20 students are common place for avalanche courses.

Here is what we offer

Our Instructors are certified mountain and / or ski guides (ACMG) or Assistant Ski Guides and Avalanche Canada professional members with at least 10 years of professional experience including operational avalanche forecasting. Our Field Trips lead into interesting ski touring terrain in either Provincial or National Parks. Instructors that are not certified guides (ACMG) will not be able to take you into any Parks! Our Group sizes do not exceed 8 participants and more commonly they are between 3 and 4!

Gear List


1. Technical Equipment

• Telemark or Alpine Touring skis*: Only bring your telemark skis if you are at least an advanced/intermediate telemark skier with backcountry experience.
• Telemark or alpine touring boots*
• Collapsible ski poles*
• Climbing skins (stick-on) that fit your telemark or alpine touring skis*
• Avalanche transceiver (475 Megahertz)
• Lightweight snow shovel
• Avalanche probe
• Backpack (30-40 liters) with rain cover. Some have built-in rain covers (eg. Deuter backpacks). Rain covers can also be bought separately. Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing harness for glacier travel
• One locking carabiner
• Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik slings, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
• Repair kit for your skis (can be shared between 2 people)

All items marked with ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
Harness, carabiner, transceiver, snow-shovel and avalanche probe can be provided by OnTop. Please bring your own equipment if you have it.

2. Clothing

Temperatures in the Canadian Rockies vary hugely.
Early season (December – February) temps can drop as low as –30C overnight, whereas in spring (mid-March – May) it can warm up to above freezing temps and overnight lows are not usually below –10C. The list is meant as a guide line, but we realize that our guests have their clothing priorities and substituting certain items with other equivalent pieces of clothing might be a valid alternative.
If you do so, you should discuss it with your guide in the pre-trip briefing.

• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore Tex or similar)
• Warm pants (insulated / fleece/ polypro)
• Fleece or wool pullover or jacket
• Medium weight fleece shirt
• Capilene, fleece or wool underwear, top and bottoms
• 2 Pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
• Scarf or neck gaiter
• Socks: thick (wool) outer and thinner liners
• Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
• Gaiters (unless pants lock tightly to your boots or ski pants have integrated gaiters)
• Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
• Bandana (optional)

3. Other items

• Sun Glasses (with very good UV protection, extra pair is a good idea)
• Sun screen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter or camelbak (if too cold, bladder tube might freeze up!)
• Head lamp
• Blister kit (optional)
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.)
• Personal items (Prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses etc.)
• Pocket knife or leatherman tool
• Goggles, camera, film and extra batteries (optional)

Any questions, please contact us


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

2018 / 2019 DATES

Canmore / Banff / Lake Louise
Dec 2-3, 2017
Dec 9-10, 2017
Dec 16-17, 2017
Dec 26-27, 2017
Jan 2 – 3
Jan 20 – 21
Feb 3 – 4
Feb 17 – 18
Mar 3 – 4

AST 1 – Golden with Rogers Pass
Nov 25-26, 2017*
Dec 2-3, 2017*
Dec 9-10, 2017
Dec 16-17, 2017
Dec 27-28, 2017
Jan 6 – 7
Jan 20 – 21
Jan 27 – 28*
Feb 10 – 11
Feb. 24 – 25
Mar 3 – 4
*operated by Golden based guiding company, backcountry ski days will be around the Golden area.

AST 1 – Revelstoke with Rogers Pass
Dec 26-27
Jan 6-7
Jan 27-28
Feb 24-25

  • CA $250 + GST

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

Extra: Land transport, lodging and food, rental of ski touring equipment or snow shoes, ski hill passes.

On request, we can quote you in your preferred currency

Client / Guides
  • minimum 3 participants
  • maximum 8 participants