Avalanche Courses and Training
Snow avalanches are arguably the biggest risk facing the winter climber, skier or rider. Understanding avalanche risk, avalanche terrain, weather factors and companion rescue are essential skills for anyone recreating in the mountains in winter. In many cases, as demonstrated by high profile out of bounds ski resort avalanche incidents, some victims didn’t even realize they should have been concerned about avalanches. Recognizing avalanche terrain and making informed decisions are cornerstones of recreational avalanche courses.
Avalanche Skills Training courses consist of an intensive classroom day where students are taught theoretical and practical curriculum through presentations and discussions in an interactive learning environment. The field day is where theory gets put into practice and every student is given the opportunity to actively practice travel and danger recognition skills. Students will also be taught best-practice companion rescue skills. Through the efficient use of pinpointing a victim with the avalanche transceiver, probing to locate the person under the snow and proper digging techniques to complete the rescue, students will be prepared should the unforeseen avalanche accident occur. While the objective of an avalanche course is to avoid incidents and burials, companion rescue skills dramatically increase victim survival rates when they are needed.
Part of the formal training is exposure to the myriad of tools and public information available for anyone with basic skills to assess risk and manage their exposure to avalanches. Public avalanche bulletins, current weather reports, historical weather station information (wind, temperature, precipitation) and local avalanche observations will all be combined with your field observations to assist your decision making. All of these observations and data points can be consolidated into a decision making tool (Avaluator) taking some of the mystery out of what can be an overwhelming series of inputs. A good avalanche course instructor will take complex topics and break them down into relatable and understandable pieces of individual data points.
There are two levels of recreational training in Canada. The first is the Avalanche Skills Training 1 (AST 1). This is a two day course with one day in the classroom and one day in the field. Upon completion of this course, participants are given Yamnuska’s AST 1 certificate. This certificate is recognized throughout Canada. The next level of recreational avalanche training is the Avalanche Skills Training 2 (AST 2) which is a more intensive four day training program that spends three full days in the field and a more indepth classroom day. Recreational avalanche courses are prerequisites for anyone interested in pursuing professional level avalanche training. Professional avalanche courses are requirements for many professions such as ski patrol, avalanche forecasters, mountain guides, ski guides, and other field intensive professional positions. Many first responders, corporations, and utilities that have employees and infrastructure in the mountains require their staff to have professional level avalanche training.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is one of Canada’s largest providers of recreational avalanche training. We are a recognized industry leader in promoting best practice inside and outside of our own organization. Our commitment to developing and promoting avalanche awareness and curriculum in Canada is further demonstrated by being a ‘Founding Supporter’ of Avalanche Canada. We continue our financial and human resource support to Avalanche Canada today and remain committed to reducing the number of injuries and fatalities in Canada due to avalanches.
Our AST 1 courses are taught in Canmore and Calgary. Canmore courses are taught in our classroom (#200 – 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore) and Calgary based courses are taught in the Training Room at the Calgary Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Courses run every weekend from Mid-November until Mid-March. Over the past several years, best practice for avalanche risk management has evolved to the point where any ice climber either passing through avalanche terrain or climbing below potential avalanche slopes should carry a transceiver, shovel and probe even if the exposure is limited. We offer a specific AST 1 for ice climbers.
We provide the transceiver, probe and shovel for participants if required. We use the BCA Tracker 2 transceiver which is a 3 antennae digital beacon. We use Voile metal shovels and collapsible 240 Speed Tech G3 probes as well for field training.
Field days are conducted at locations within Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, Glacier National Park and Kananaskis.
Our instructors are certified and professional ACMG guides with Canadian Avalanche Association Level 2 professional certification. They are practicing guides who follow the curriculum mandated for avalanche training in addition to our own tools and learning aids. Yamnuska has a Level 3 Avalanche Planner on staff (the highest certification in Canada) and another staff member sits on the AST advisory committee for Avalanche Canada.
With almost 40 years experience, we are confident we have the skills and experience to deliver the best possible avalanche training for you or your group.
Special: Sign up for our AST 1 and AST 2 recreational avalanche courses at the same time and save 10% off the cost of both courses.
The AST 1 avalanche course is a great introductory program. If you are a regular backcountry enthusiast we recommend you sign up for the AST 1 course, get outside to build your experience level, then take the AST 2. Many people take both courses in the same season.
Overall I think Yamnuska did a fantastic job of taking an extremely complex – even overwhelming – topic and packaging it into a digestible introductory course. It’s certainly not a simple task. Both Steve and Grant were great teachers with vast amounts of knowledge and were able to transfer some of that to us on a level that we could understand and deal with. The course was well orchestrated and organized.
—Parry Loeffler, Alberta
For the best snowmobile avalanche training courses check out or friends at Zacs Tracs. The characteristics of avalanche risk is very different when travelling on a snowmobile and we recommend you have specific snowmobile avalanche training by professionals who conducted their professional training in that discipline.