Avalanche Training / AST 1 Course / Avalanche Courses // Whistler

AST 1 – Whistler

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AST 1 - Avalanche Skills Training Pit Digging


  • Cost:
  • Per Person: $279
  • Private (up to 6 people): $1399

Location: Whistler/Blackcomb/Sea to Sky Gondola  Duration: 2 Days  Fitness: Average  Ability: Introductory  Prerequisites: Strong Intermediate Skiing/Boarding Level  

Industry leading Avalanche Skills Training AST 1 course that introduces the fundamentals critical to safe backcountry travel in avalanche terrain.

Private AST 1 courses are available on request.

Women’s Only Courses: Avalanche Skills Training / Advanced Backcountry Skills Clinic

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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

Well regarded as the areas leading avalanche skills educator, MSAA provides an exceptional Level 1 Avalanche Skills Training Course. Student’s can expect a concise and effective course that will definitively establish the requisite foundation and develop the critical skills necessary for safe backcountry travel in avalanche terrain. This course meets and surpasses the requirements set forth by Avalanche Canada.

Course design and refinement by IMFGA / ACMG Mountain Guides/CAA Operations Level II Professionals of extensive experience. MSAA, the areas longest established provider (since 1991),  proudly maintains 5 StarTrip Advisor, Hall of Fame status for avalanche courses, is a Founding Member and Sponsor of Avalanche Canada.

Day 1: Indoors; Theory day

The course begins with an online digital pre-course video and questionnaire. The theory portion of the course is a full day and held in a comfortable classroom. Here we will provide our carefully crafted curriculum with an engaging interactive multi-media presentation.

Course Theory Elements:

  • 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

The practical portion of the course is held in true backcountry, world class terrain that is easily accessible in a timely manner. This serves to maximize the time our student’s spend to development their skills as well as provide the best quality terrain for an optimal learning environment.

Our course also serves as a mini intro to the sport by introducing the equipment and its effective use.

Course Practical Elements:

  • Backcountry and Avalanche Equipment use
  • Trailhead procedures
  • Companion Rescue
  • Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain
  • 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 Study Kit with Thermometer, Crystal Screen and Loupe

Course does NOT include:

Lift ticket to get up the mountain on the second day. You can buy this from MSAA if you do not have a pass.

Private AST 1 courses are available on request.

Women’s Only Courses: Avalanche Skills Training / Advanced Backcountry Skills Clinic

Day 1 – 9am-5pm: Meet at a pre-arranged location where we will cover theory in the classroom all day.

Day 2 – 8:15am-4pm: Meet at the Escape Route Alpine Demo Centre (#7 – 4433 Sundial Place, Whistler)
Head up the mountain to 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


  • Lift Pass (available from MSAA) (not needed if you have a season pass or day passes)
  • 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

Classroom (Day 1):

  • 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

Outdoor (Day 2):

  • 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: Lift tickets are not included but can be purchased through MSAA.

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

Rentals: MSAA clients receive a discounted rental rate at Escape Route Alpine Demo Centre. Advance reservations are required to ensure there is gear available.

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


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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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