Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 Skiers & Snowboarders AST1

AST 1 – Vancouver

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AST 1 - Avalanche Skills Training 1 - Vancouver


  • Cost:
  • $269

Location: Vancouver/Whistler  Duration: 2 Days  Fitness: Average  Ability: Introductory  Prerequisites: Intermediate Skiing/Boarding Level  

Our Avalanche Training AST 1 course introduces you to the fundamentals critical to safe backcountry travel. This includes pre-trip planning, backcountry equipment, snowpack and avalanche hazard assessment, terrain selection and avalanche rescue skills.

Private AST 1 courses are available on request.

Whistler Courses: Avalanche Skills Training Ski & Splitboard / Avalanche Skills Training Snowshoe

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The following dates are available for this course.

If you would like different dates, or to book a private course, please contact us.

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Course Information

Our Level 1 Avalanche Skills Training Course is designed by the preeminent experts in the field,  IMFGA/ACMG certified Mountain Guides who are CAA Operations Level II Professional’s. Over the decades we have perfected the optimal AST1 course specifically tailored for skiers and snowboarders who plan to venture into the backcountry.

Day 1: Indoors; Theory day

We utilize a modern approach beginning with a brief online digital video and questionnaire pre-course link that will be emailed to you. Our indoor day is a full day and always held in a comfortable classroom, where we provide our carefully crafted curriculum with an engaging interactive multi-media presentation including video, props, group sessions and more. Our pleasant instructors are advanced experts, trained as instructors and passionate about what they do. They will include you, challenge you, and ensure you are learning

The concepts that we need to pass on to our students are vital and somewhat complex in nature. Given we take the requisite time , methodology and use of technology, we are well able to achieve this goal without information overload or losing time by going outside and then trying to achieve this goal while exposed to the elements. We get out into the backcountry on day two for the practical portion of the course as is most appropriate.

In the theory part of the course expect to learn the following critical subjects:

  • Avalanche formation and release
  • How to identify avalanche terrain
  • Interpreting the Avalanche Canada bulletin
  • Pre-trip planning, including weather and conditions for travel into avalanche terrain
  • Optimal use of tools and resources
  • Decision making in avalanche terrain to mitigate your avalanche risk
  • Human factors
  • Case studies
  • Course Handouts

Day 2: In the field; Practical day

As guides, we feel it is important to be genuine and ensure we not only take our students to true backcountry areas, but also spend the whole day outdoors. We use areas that not only offer the perfect terrain to learn AST 1 skills, but also that are quick to get to in order to maximize learning time. Furthermore these are areas we are sure you will want to head back to on your own to hone your skills. As well, as with the day 1 indoor day, we do not mix indoors and outdoors, apart from a indoor meeting to go over the days trip plan, weather and avalanche bulletin, this day is all outdoors, all day.

For the Vancouver and Squamish courses we typically head to an area called Red Heather/Elfin Lakes area in Garabaldi Park. A forestry road leads the the trailhead parking and can be hard to negotiate without a 4-wheel drive. We thus partner with Shred Shuttle, to provide their awesome 4×4 shuttle service. The convenience and cost is well worth it at $40 return and you’ll find it as an add on option when you book. In the event (not often) that conditions are not conducive at this location, we then shift the course to either Whistler or to location in the Duffy Lake road area (TBD).

Day two begins with an introduction to the equipment as well as a quick intro to ski touring and split boarding. We then begin the practical part of the course in earnest. This is very hands on and students can expect to carry out a mock avalanche rescue (companion rescue), set up-tracks, investigate the snowpack by digging snow pits and of course ski in powder all the while learning decision making in avalanche terrain.

In the Practical part of the course expect to learn the following critical skills:

  • Backcountry and Avalanche Equipment use
  • Trailhead procedures
  • Companion Rescue
  • Terrain Selection and use of the Avaluator
  • Uphill track setting
  • Snowpack testing
  • Downhill descent and regrouping

It is important for participants to have intermediate (blue level) ski or snowboarding skills and be in reasonable physical shape. Our student to guide ratio is 8:1 as this ensures maximum safety and learning. Know before you go!

*All Courses subject to a minimum number of participants. 48 hour notice will be given if minimum number has not been reached.

Course includes:

  • Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 Certificate (upon successful completion)
  • Backcountry Avalanche Awareness Book
  • Avaluator Booklet and Avaluator Slope Assessment Field Card
  • Canadian Avalanche Association Mandatory Student Fee
  • Companion Rescue Field Card
  • Use of Snow Saw, Study Kit, Crystal Screen and Loupe

Pre-Course – Link will be sent

Day 1 – Meet at a pre-arranged location where we will cover theory in the classroom all day.

Day 2 – Meet at a pre-arranged location where we apply the skills you learned on Day 1.
We will end the day with a quick debrief.

Classroom (Day 1) Equipment:

  • Lunch, snacks, and water
  • Pen, pencil, paper, laptop or tablet (optional), and smartphone

Outdoor (Day 2) Equipment:

Clothing – Dress appropriately for the conditions

  • Weatherproof shell jacket and pants
  • Down or synthetic insulated jacket
  • Mid layer fleece top
  • Insulating top and bottom under layers and socks
  • Warm hat/tuque and balaclava
  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen


  • Backpack-25-35 Litres
  • Alpine touring skis/splitboard, skins, bindings, and boots (can be rented from Escape Route Alpine Demo Centre)
  • Avalanche Safety Kit (transceiver, shovel, probe) (can be rented from Escape Route Alpine Demo Centre)
  • Helmet
  • Poles
  • First Aid Kit with blister kit
  • Rite in the Rain notebook and pencil (optional)
  • Map, compass, GPS (optional)
  • Lunch, snacks, and water


  • Snowpack: Crystals & Layers
  • Terrain
  • Environmental Factors in Avalanche Formation Terrain
  • Avalanche Hazard Mitigation
  • Avalanche Danger Resources
  • Human Factors
  • Equipment and Companion Rescue Technique Familiarization
  • Pre-Trip Planning & Avalanche Bulletin/Avaluator
  • Decision Making Competence


  • Trailhead Procedures
  • Companion Rescue
  • Avalanche Terrain Travel
  • Snowpack and/or Avalanche Observations
  • Snowpack Tests
  • Avalanche Terrain Descent

Transportation: Ensure you have reliable transportation to and from meeting locations.

Lift Tickets: Not included.

Accommodation: Not included in course price.

Food: For field day, pack plenty of fluids, high energy food, and snacks. A thermos with a hot drink 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.

Learn about training courses at the academy: 

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.

Our preferred method of payment is by Mastercard or VISA. We also accept bank e-transfers and cash.

• For 1-2 day adventures/courses booking must be paid in full.
• For longer adventures/courses a deposit of 50% is required at the time of booking.
• The remaining balance is due 30 days before the start date.
• Bookings made less than 30 days before adventure/course must be paid in full.

Next day bookings are taken up until 5pm the day before any tour or course. *Subject to guide availability

Full Terms & Conditions

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 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 Tours

  • With less than 48 hours of the tour start time:  Cancellation will result in a 100% forfeit of tour price, no rescheduling.
  • With more than 48 hours notice:  We will reschedule or refund with no penalty.
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 of the course date: 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 of the course date: 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 19) and custodial groups (youths affiliated with an institution where a parent or legal guardian is not present on the trip) may register for certain trips and courses with a letter of consent from parents or legal guardian as well, they must sign a waiver and have a parent 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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