Avalanche Safety Training AST-2: Canmore & Banff AB
Banff / Canmore

Avalanche Skills Training Level 2

AST-2 Courses Western Canada


  • Cost:
  • $649

Location: Canmore and Banff, Canadian Rockies   Duration: 4 Days   Fitness: Good   Ability: Intermediate   Prerequisites: AST1 + Backcountry Skiing/Boarding experience  

Our Avalanche Skills Training Course – Level 2 teaches you about managing and mitigating avalanche and mountain hazards. You will gain the know-how to formulate a logical, concise and dependable safety plan for backcountry skiing or riding. The course is offered in the Banff & Canmore area of Alberta, Canada.

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The split weekend dates in winter season 2018 - 2019

Day 1 & 2: December 8-9 Day 3 & 4: December 15-16
Day 1 & 2: January 26 - 27 Day 3 & 4: February 2 - 3
Day 1 & 2: February 23 - 24 Day 3 & 4: March 2 - 3
Day 1 & 2: March 23 - 24 Day 3 & 4: March 30 - 31

Private courses and additional dates can be added by request.

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Course Information

Courses include one day classroom day in Canmore and 3 immediately subsequent field days.

Students will learn to bring together critical information and resources into one unique integrated plan. We have designed this as an easy to achieve step by step, regimented approach which is time efficient and highly effective. This greatly facilitates the task and insures a plan is made and implemented prior to skiing or riding.

This plan will form the basis of decision making as to where and how the next day’s skiing will safely take place.

The plan includes:

  • Local bulletins & Forecasters statements
  • Layers of concern
  • Current hazards
  • Weather forecast
  • Conditions reports
  • Field observations
  • Local knowledge
  • Ski route resources
  • Guidebooks
  • Topo maps
  • Terrain maps and pictures
  • Avaluator™
  • Parks Canada ATES Scale
  • Ranking hazards
  • Scheduled snowpack tests
  • Situational awareness
  • Safe route planning and an initially conservative approach

The Avalanche Skills Training Level 2 course is designed for students who have already taken the AST 1 course or for experienced backcountry skiers & riders looking to broaden their avalanche skills.

Take your backcountry confidence to new levels!

Our in-depth course meets and surpasses the Canadian Avalanche Centre requirements with additional Mountain Skills Academy curriculum.

The AST 2 course consists of one classroom day and 3 days of extensive outdoor field sessions focusing on terrain analysis, snowpack assessment and rescue skills.

Each field day starts and finishes with indoor classroom sessions to discuss current conditions.

Students receive a certificate from the Canadian Avalanche Centre upon completion of the course.

Why choose MSA?

Value: Affordable, all-inclusive, cutting edge course, expert instructors, world-class location.

Expertise: Curriculum and methodology that meets and surpasses Canadian Avalanche Association AST 2 requirements.

Professionalism: Certified ACMG/IFMGA Ski/Mountain Guides who are professional members of the Canadian Avalanche Association and have a minimum of four years operational experience.

Avalanche Safety Plan: A cutting edge decision making plan designed by MSA that will become a crucial part of your backcountry safety.

Venue: The Canadian Rockies is a world-class destination for backcountry ski touring. Acres of complex terrain, glaciers, ski mountaineering summits and the famous “cold smoke” powder.

Snowpack: The snowpack in the Rockies is always complex and a perfect learning ground.

Comfort: Based out of three star accommodation with all amenities.

Convenience: Canmore is the perfect base as it is centrally situated between 3 mountain ranges – the Rockies, the Kootenays and Kananaskis – enabling us to study different snowpacks. We also offer the course over two weekends.

Fun: It’s the about the skiing after all! Superb lines and backcountry powder is our passion.

Under the close and direct supervision of instructors, participants are encouraged to lead and continually make critical avalanche safety decisions independently. At the core of our curriculum is our Avalanche Travel Safety Plan. This plan consolidates theory and practice into an effective, easy to use, decision-making tool.

Our AST 2 course includes the Canadian Avalanche Association “Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain” field book, 37 hours of instruction covering 62 critical lessons, all practiced in world class terrain, with the most qualified instructors keen on sharing their passion and expertise with you.

Day 1 – Classroom Instruction

  • Meet at prearranged classroom location
  • Introductions, waivers, course objectives
  • AM Session: AST 1 Review – avalanche theory, safe travel, CAA bulletin, weather forecasts and products, trip planning, Avaluator™, Parks Canada ATES Scale
  • Lunch break
  • PM Session: Human factors, Companion rescue review, MSA Safety Plan
  • End of indoor day

Days 2-4 Field Days

  • At a location appropriate for avalanche conditions and weather
  • Topics covered will include: advanced companion rescue, safe travel techniques and group management, snowpack structure and stability tests
  • Each day will typically be structured as follows:
  • Meet at a local cafe
  • Morning meeting: Avalanche discussion including local weather & conditions
  • Avalanche Safety plan review
  • Drive to Rockies ski touring location. Ski touring in challenging and complex terrain

Day 2

  • Demonstration & Guide Mentored day

Day 3

  • Student Leadership training day with Guide Mentoring

Day 4

  • Student lead ski touring day under Guided supervision
  • End of field session
  • Post trip meeting: next days planning and evening session
  • Homework: next days Avalanche Safety Plan
  • Course close: debrief and students will be issued a certificate of completion

We are happy to help source any gear you need for your course

Classroom Day: Just bring yourself, lunch, pens and paper. A laptop is optional.


Field Day: Dress appropriately for the conditions.

  • Down or synthetic “puffy” insulated jacket
  • Insulating top and bottom under layers and socks
  • Mid layer fleece top
  • Weatherproof shell jacket and pants
  • Warm hat and balaclava
  • 2 pairs of gloves, mittens (optional)
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen


  • Avalanche Safety Kit (beacon, probe and shovel)
  • Backpack-25-35 Litres
  • Touring skis / splitboard and skins
  • Ski / snowboard boots
  • Poles
  • Helmet
  • Write in the rain book and mechanical pencil (optional)
  • First Aid Kit with blister kit
  • Map, compass, GPS (all optional)
  • Feel free to bring your own Avalanche Safety Kit if you have it
  • *Lunch, snacks, and water
  • *Thermos (optional)

If you require rentals please contact us as soon as possible to ensure availability.

Day one

  • Lesson 1 Safety discussion, UIAA Environmental & Mountain ethics discussion
  • Lesson 2 AST 1 Review
  • Lesson 3 AST 2 course objectives and layout
  • Lesson 4 Leadership in avalanche terrain
  • Lesson 5 Terrain exceptions
  • Lesson 6 Terrain verification
  • Lesson 7 Avalanche Danger
  • Lesson 8 Local avalanche bulletin
  • Lesson 9 Weather forecast
  • Lesson 10 Weather products
  • Lesson 11 Field findings
  • Lesson 12 Route Planning
  • Lesson 13 Avalanche Danger Exceptions
  • Lesson 14 Local seasonal snowpack and notable occurrences/weak layers
  • Lesson 15 Local Avalanche Danger Verification
  • Lesson 16 Decision Making Support System
  • Lesson 17 Human factors case study
  • Lesson 18 Decision making confidence & strategy (conservative outlook)
  • Lesson 19 Trip Planning
  • Lesson 20 MSA Avalanche Safety Plan

The following ‘Critical Lessons’ are taught either as evening or field sessions, some are practiced each day and all are introduced when appropriate:

  • Lesson 21 Create and implement MSA AS plan (Avalanche Safety Plan)
  • Lesson 22 Transceiver functions, limitations, interference, range and battery check
  • Lesson 23 Advanced Companion Rescue – Multiple burials
  • Lesson 24 Advanced Companion Rescue – Close proximity burials
  • Lesson 25 Advanced Companion Rescue – Deep burials
  • Lesson 26 Local avalanche bulletin
  • Lesson 27 Weather forecast
  • Lesson 28 Weather products
  • Lesson 29 Conditions reports
  • Lesson 30 Trailhead procedures
  • Lesson 31 Situational awareness
  • Lesson 32 Recognizing terrain transitions & conditions changes – Danger Exceptions
  • Lesson 33 Investigate Primary Concerns in regional avalanche forecast
  • Lesson 34 Investigate general local snowpack
  • Lesson 35 Investigate avalanche activity
  • Lesson 36 Investigate signs of unstable snow
  • Lesson 37 Investigate loading
  • Lesson 38 Investigate thaw instability
  • Lesson 39 Investigate unstable snow
  • Lesson 40 Making safe route finding decisions on the go based on the ‘AS’ plan. Emphasis on situational awareness, current conditions, terrain and terrain transitions, and weather.
  • Recognizing typical avalanche hazard areas (terrain traps, prime avalanche slope angles, avalanche paths, unsupported terrain, shallow snowpack areas)
  • Lesson 41 Safe travel techniques & group management – Route finding, Terrain verification
  • Lesson 42 Field snow stability test
  • Lesson 43 Finding known critical layers (ski pole hand shear test, compression test, Rutschblock test, ski cutting)
  • Lesson 44 Snowpack and weather recording (for those moving on to CAA level 1 professional course)
  • Lesson 45 Determining avalanche hazard/stability
  • Lesson 46 Post trip review
  • Lesson 47 Ski cutting techniques
  • Lesson 48 Specifics of tree skiing
  • Lesson 49 Specifics of glacier skiing
  • Lesson 50 Proper re-grouping techniques
  • Lesson 51 Treewell rescue
  • Lesson 52 Lost skier specifics
  • Lesson 53 Injury and emergency rescue/evacuation considerations

Day Two

Demonstration & Guide Mentored day- Ski touring in challenging and complex terrain
A selection from Critical Lessons 21 – 53 will be introduced, as well as:

  • Lesson 54 Morning meeting: Avalanche discussion including local weather & conditions. ATS plan review
  • Lesson 55 Avalanche Resources – Glacier park avalanche bulletin and conditions

Day three

Student Leadership training day with Guide Mentoring- Ski touring in challenging and complex terrain

A selection from Critical Lessons 21 – 53 will be introduced, as well as:

  • Lesson 56 Leadership in avalanche terrain – participants take turns leading the group, under close and direct supervision of the instructor
  • Lesson 57 Independent critical avalanche safety decision-making system
  • Lesson 58 Independent situational awareness
  • Lesson 59 Independent transition & conditions recognition
  • Lesson 60 Independent group leadership & management

Day Four

Student lead ski touring day under Guided supervision – Ski touring in challenging and complex terrain
A selection from Critical Lessons 21 – 53 will be introduced, as well as:

  • Lesson 61 Special session on dealing with terrain crux’s & critical safe and conservative decision making.
  • Lesson 62 Final safety discussion – Understanding the limits of your current skill and experience.
    Under the close and direct supervision of our instructors, participants are encouraged to lead and continually make critical avalanche safety decisions independently.

At the core of our curriculum is our Avalanche Travel Safety Plan. This plan consolidates theory and practice into an effective, easy to use decision-making tool.

Transport to Field Locations

Participants in this course will meet their guide at an agreed time and location, usually a local cafe, in Canmore on the morning of the first day. From there you will be expected to have private transport to get to the course location. If you don’t have private transport we can arrange transport with the guide for $20 per day.

Accommodation in Canmore

Accommodation is not included in the course price.

Food for Backcountry Field Days

Please make sure you pack plenty of high energy food and snacks as well as fluids to keep you at your best all day long. There are plenty of restaurants and supermarkets in Canmore, and if you completely forget we start the day at a local coffee shop so you’ll be able to grab something for lunch from there. A thermos of tea or coffee is also a great idea.

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Important Information

We strongly recommend you purchase insurance for Trip Cancellation, Emergency Evacuation and Adventure Sports Coverage (some backcountry adventures are excluded from coverage).

Emergency Evacuation and Medical Insurance

This coverage provides you with emergency air rescue if required and full medical. Parks Canada provides free evacuation within the Parks and if you are a Canadian resident your medical will be covered by your provincial health plan (except ambulance/air ambulance transport). We strongly recommend international visitors purchase this insurance.

Emergency evacuation insurance is compulsory for all our hut trips, as these typically take place outside of Parks Canada’s jurisdiction.

Trip Cancellation Insurance

To prepare for unforeseen circumstances we strongly recommend purchasing Trip Cancellation Insurance at the time of booking your trip. Trip Cancellation insurance covers many scenarios to reimburse you for cancelled trips outside of your control.

Our recommended insurance provider is Tugo.Com who can be reached via the following:

All prices are quoted in Canadian dollars and are exclusive of a 5% tax (GST). Prices are subject to change. Guide gratuities are not included in fees.

Full payment is required at time of registration. Our preferred method of payment is by Mastercard or VISA through our online payment portal. We also accept credit card payment over the phone, bank transfer and cash.

Mountain Skills Academy takes mountain safety very seriously, however there is no way to completely mitigate risk in alpine environments. Prior to undertaking any of our courses or trips we require you to sign a waiver.

Mountain conditions are extremely unpredictable and can change at short notice. Our guides endeavor to undertake the routes and/or peaks that our clients desire, however our decisions will be impacted by conditions. Unfortunately we are not able to offer refunds if conditions are not suitable to undertake a particular route on the day you have booked. We will however make every effort to take you out for the best day possible given the conditions.

Applicable to all tours and courses*: If conditions force us to cancel a course or trip we will do all we can to accommodate you at another date. If this isn’t possible we will offer a full refund. We reserve the right to decline rescheduling dates based on availability.  *Does not apply to First Aid and Wilderness First Aid courses.

Late Arrival Policy

Guests arriving more than 15 minutes late for an activity forfeit 100% of the tour price. Tours leave promptly; it is recommended to arrive 15 minutes early to sort out gear and sign waivers.

Adventures Cancellation Policy

Half Day and Full Day Programs

  • Within 48 hours of start time:  Cancellation will result in a 100% forfeit of tour price, no rescheduling.
  • More than 48 hours:  $25 rescheduling & refunding fee (per booking).
Multi Day Programs
  • 2 Day Programs: Within 10 days cancellation notice will result in a 100% forfeit of tuition, Outside of 10 days: $25 penalty to reschedule per booking or full refund.
  • 3+ Day Programs: 30 days cancellation notice will result in a 100% forfeit of tuition, Outside of 30 days: $75 penalty to reschedule or full refund.
  • Customized Trips: 30 days cancellation notice will result in a 100% forfeit of tuition, Outside of 30 days: $75penalty to reschedule per booking or full refund.

**On all multi day trips pre arranged add-ons are non-refundable (food, accommodation, etc).

Courses Cancellation Policy

1-2 Day Courses

  • Within 10 days: Cancellation notice will result in a 100% forfeit of tuition
  • Outside of 10 days: $75 penalty to reschedule per booking or full refund.

3+ Day Courses

  • Within 30 days: Cancellation notice will result in a 100% forfeit of tuition
  • Outside of 30 days: $75 penalty to reschedule per booking or full refund.

**If you are able to find someone else to take your place on a course, please let us know as we are more than happy to transfer bookings.

Minors (under the age of 18 for our courses based in Alberta and 19 for those based in BC) and custodial groups (youths affiliated with an institution where the parents/legal guardian are not present on the trip) may register for certain trips and courses with a letter of consent from parents or legal guardian as well as must sign a waiver and have their parents or legal guardian sign a waiver. Further, we abide by the Parks Canada Custodial Group winter backcountry policy as outlined here.


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