Avalanche Course: AST 2

Canmore / Banff / Lake Louise, or Golden / Revelstoke & Rogers Pass, Canada

Intensive four-day Avalanche Safety Training (AST 2) following the course curriculum of Avalanche Canada

Avalanche Course: AST 2 Highlights

  • Avalanche Canada AST 2 course curriculum
  • Avalanche Canada AST 2 certificates for graduates
  • Can be combined with our ski and ice climbing trips
  • Beautiful mountain terrain in Western Canada
  • Senior instructors with avalanche forecasting experience

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.

If you have already successfully completed your Avalanche Safety Training 1 (AST 1) course, it is time to take the next step. The 4-day / 32-hour Avalanche Skills Training (AST 2) course builds on the concepts learned in AST 1 and provides a more advanced decision-making framework for traveling in avalanche terrain. AST 2 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:

  • planning and travel techniques required to safely travel through various types of terrain
  • applying the day’s Avalanche Canada Danger Rating in the field
  • applying the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) to your actual situation in the backcountry
  • companion rescue practice – transceiver search, shoveling techniques, and more

We follow the standards set by Avalanche Canada. All graduates will receive an Avalanche Canada certificate after successful completion of the course.

AST 2 is a prerequisite for the Avalanche Canada Levels 1 and 2 forecasting courses, which prepare the learner for careers in the snow safety industry (eg. ACMG ski guides, ski patrol, public safety, heli-skiing, etc.) and focus more on detailed snow pit work, recording standards, and forecasting tools.

Avalanche Safety Training 2 (AST 2) Course Curriculum

We will focus on the practical application of course content with lots of real-life examples and avalanche incident case studies. We provide course participants with the tools needed to make good decisions in the backcountry.

Our four-day AST 2 courses are very intensive and include evening sessions. To partake in this course and receive your certification you must have first have completed the AST 1 course through an Avalanche Canada recognised provider.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Use the Avaluator™ as a tool to determine when changes to plans and/or travel techniques are required to travel safely.
  • Use techniques to verify official Avalanche Danger Ratings in the field.
  • Use the ATES technical model to develop personal, local terrain ratings.
  • Use route-finding skills and appropriate travel techniques to mitigate risk.
  • Proficiently carry out a companion rescue.
  • Understand the limits of their training.

We will focus on the three decisive factors in evaluating stability and overall hazard:

1) Hazard rating according to the avalanche bulletin
2) Slope steepness and exposure to hazard from above
3) Slope exposure and shape

Avalanche Safety Training 2 (AST 2) – 4 days / 32 hours

1) Classroom Sessions – 1 day plus evenings

  • Introduction (objectives, signing of waivers) 0.3
  • Formation and nature of avalanches 0.5
  • Avalanche terrain 0.7
  • Factors affecting snow stability 1.5
  • Mountain snowpack – advanced 0.5
  • Winter backcountry travel 1.0
  • Assessing avalanche danger and decision making 1.0
  • Safety measures and self-rescue/transceivers 1.0
  • Organized search & rescue (optional) 0.5
  • Rescue practice critiques (evenings) 0.5
  • Video 1.0
  • Conclusion and evaluation by students 0.5

2) Field Sessions – 3 days

  • Terrain recognition
  • Route finding
  • Safe travel
  • Group management
  • Stability evaluation
  • Hazard recognition
  • Small party self-rescue

Detail and Logistics

Meeting Point & Time / Course Locations

Canmore courses: 9 a.m. at the Summit Cafe, Benchlands Trail close to Cougar Creek.
Banff courses: 9 a.m. at the International Hostel.
Lake Louise: 9 a.m. at the Lake Louise International Alpine Hostel (HI and ACC).
Golden: 9 a.m. at the Kicking Horse Lodge (on the way to the ski hill).
Rogers Pass: 8 a.m. PST / 9 a.m. MST – meeting point to be advised upon booking.
Revelstoke: 9 a.m. PST – 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.

Any additional cost due to changes in the itinerary, may they be caused by weather, mountain conditions or personal preferences.

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. To be eligible for the AST 2 certificate, you must first have taken the AST 1 course through an Avalanche Canada recognised provider.

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 2 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 or a splitboard if you are an advanced telemark skier or splitboarder with backcountry experience.

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)
 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

Additional, optional items

 Avulator 2 card
 Snow saw
 Snow study kit
 Compass with clinometer
 Snow thermometer


For custom groups we gladly provide you with a custom proposal including a tiered pricing depending on the number of participants in your group. Commonly, starting at 5 participants, we can match the prices of our scheduled avalanche courses. On a custom basis, we can also offer other locations in Western Canada or the Alps. We can also include the course content of our avalanche courses into one of our lodge-based ski touring weeks!


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

2018 / 2019 DATES
  • December 6-9 — Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise
  • December 27-30 — Golden/Rogers Pass
  • January 10-13 — Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise
  • January 31-February 3 — Golden/Rogers Pass
  • February 21-24 — Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise
  • February 28 to March 3 — Golden/Rogers Pass

Revelstoke / Rogers Pass 
Custom courses only — contact us!

  • $650 + GST per person, minimum 4 people

Included: guide and 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 area passes.

On request, we can quote you in your preferred currency.

Client / Guides
  • minimum 4 participants
  • maximum 8 participants