Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses provide the foundations to safe travel and decision making in the backcountry.The curricula are developed and maintained by Avalanche Canada and are delivered by licensed providers. The concepts in the course are general and can apply to any form of travel or recreation in avalanche terrain, including ski/splitboard, sledding, hiking or ice climbing. Most providers will tailor their courses to a specific audience in recognition of slight differences in how they move through avalanche terrain; for instance sledders are likely to cover a lot more ground than hikers or skiers.
AST providers and their instructors must all be certified to a minimum level of CAA Level 1, which is the introductory professional level avalanche training in Canada, and must also be either Active or Professional members of The Canadian Avalanche Association. This comes with a long list of requirements for ethics and continuing professional development, and is a long-winded way of informing you, the potential student, that our instructors have up-to-date knowledge and are capable of imparting it to you on a course.
This is the basic introductory course for somebody brand new to recreating in avalanche terrain, or somebody who has taken training a long time ago and is looking to upgrade. The course consists of a minimum of 8 hours of classroom instruction and 8 hours of field instruction. The basic concepts taught are:
- Avalanche formation and release
- Identify avalanche terrain
- The basics of trip planning
- Optimal use of tools and resources like the avalanche forecasts to mitigate your avalanche risk
- Use appropriate travel techniques in avalanche terrain
- Intro to companion rescue
The concepts taught are applicable no matter where you find yourself in the world, while the products are specific to Canada. As the Yukon does not have a full avalanche forecast we go a step further and teach you how to use tools such as the Mountain Information Network, Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale and Weather Observations.
There are no pre-requisites for the AST 1, but you should be confident with moving through mountainous terrain on skis/splitboard, snowmobile or snowshoes. On snowmobile-specific courses you'll require a snowmobile (trail or mountain type) in good working order.
The AST 2 course builds on concepts taught in AST 1 and gives us a lot more time to practice and apply those skills in the field. This course consists of a minimum 9.5 hours in the classroom and 3 days in the field. Concepts taught include:
- Progressive planning and travel techniques are required to travel safely through various types of terrain
- Key techniques for using the Danger Rating on a local scale
- Key techniques for applying the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) technical model to develop personal, local terrain ratings
- Proficiently carry out a companion rescue
You will be taught to start your trip planning with the avalanche forecast and terrain ratings, then build upon this information once in the field.
While there are no pre-requisites for the AST 2, you should have taken AST 1 or equivalent and have a minimum 2 winters experience in applying these skills. In addition you will need intermediate proficiency on skis/splitboard and be fit enough to travel 5-10 km per day.
Companion Rescue skills is a single day learning about and practicing avalanche rescue. While there is no pre-requisite, we strongly recommend that you first complete at least an AST 1 or equivalent.
- Practice single and multiple burials using your avalanche transceiver
- What to do when the victim is not wearing a transceiver
- Organized rescue
- Triage and evacuation considerations
There are a number of other courses that you may find useful. While we do not currently offer them we'll be happy to help you to find a provider or answer any questions.
- Managing Avalanche Terrain:Expand upon your AST 1 travel skills
There are also professional-track training programs offered by the Canadian Avalanche Association. Some, such as Introduction to Weather, are offered periodically in Whitehorse while others require travel to BC. See the Training Flow Chart for more on how these fit into professional training and development.