Gain an introduction to avalanche skills and the basic principles of safe winter backcountry travel with the avalanche experts from Yamnuska. We are a proud ‘Founding Supplier’ of Avalanche Canada and an approved avalanche skills training course provider. Courses in Canmore / Banff and Calgary.
Winter backcountry travel, skiing and snowboarding are very popular and exciting sports but without proper knowledge, enthusiasts often take unnecessary risks. Educate yourself with our introductory Avalanche Skills Training Course AST 1 in Canmore or Calgary to make your winter travels in potential avalanche terrain safer and much more enjoyable. Our avalanche skills training instructors are full-time certified guides and professional members of the Canadian Avalanche Association. Their extensive personal experience in avalanche operations and avalanche forecasting will add an extra dimension of interest to make the training and advice more meaningful, relevant and fascinating.
We consistently get superb feedback from our avalanche skills training course students. For your convenience we offer classroom courses in both Calgary and Canmore. We can offer private courses in British Columbia and Alberta for groups or individuals.
Our Canmore and Calgary avalanche courses fill quickly with many people booking both the AST 1 and AST 2 courses at the same time. Take advantage of our Winter promotion to receive a 10% discount when you book our AST 1 and AST 2 courses at the same time. This is great value.
Join us for an additional day of backcountry skiing every Monday following our AST 1 course. Sign up for our ‘Plus Day’ add-on option where you’ll get the opportunity to put into practice all of the AST 1 skills: route selection, terrain recognition and assessment, group management and safe travel practices and snow study opportunities where appropriate. (Must be on skis or splitboard. Minimum intermediate skier at ski hill. Must be 18 years of age or older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.)
“The field day was great! Steve did an awesome job in helping us get some hands on experience. I feel very confident in my skills as a result!”
Jason – Alberta
“It’s obvious that this is an organization that has been around a long time as it functioned like the well oiled machine it should be.”
Ryan – December 2015
Day 1 (At the Yamnuska Classroom in Canmore or our Lecture Room in Calgary)
9:30 am in Canmore or 10:00 am in Calgary
- Introductions, goals and objectives, agenda
- Avalanche phenomena, formation and characteristics of avalanches
- Avalanche Terrain Recognition, introduction to the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale
- Changes in the mountain snowpack, snow metamorphism
- Lunch break
- Assessing and reducing risk
- Accessing and utilizing the Avalanche Danger Scale and Public Avalanche Bulletins
- Using the AvaluatorTM
- Safe travel and trip planning
- Companion Rescue: A methodical approach
- Logistics for the Field Day
4:30 – 5:00 pm
- Class ends
Day 2 at Bow Summit, on Highway 93, 40 km north of Lake Louise (on rare occasion we may head to selected areas of Kananaskis Country or Banff National Park).
- Meet, issue gear and introduce additional field day instructors
- Weather and avalanche bulletin group discussion
- Field observations
- Transceivers and companion rescue practice
- Managing risk in avalanche terrain
- Route selection, track setting and terrain recognition
- Snow study profile and stability tests
- Group rescue exercise
- Debrief and end of course
NOTE ON RISK: The course takes place in a backcountry winter environment. Conditions can be harsh and you need to be adequately dressed to enhance your comfort and learning. During the day we will be on the periphery of avalanche terrain however, we do limit our exposure to avalanches so that we can operate in the program area no matter what the avalanche danger is for that given day. All of our guides/instructors carry first aid kits and emergency communication. The course is designed to provide a good platform for learning and is not meant to be physically challenging or to put you at risk. Our focus is on instruction so we find appropriate avalanche study areas close to the road to maximize your avalanche education.
NOTE: Agenda may vary with field conditions and group abilities. A short tour of up to two kilometers is integral on the field day but if you’re not a skier, snowshoes are adequate. It is important that you be properly equipped for a full day in the backcountry in winter conditions (see gear tab).
*New! Join us for an additional day of backcountry skiing every Monday following our AST 1 course. Sign up for our ‘Plus Day’ add-on option where you’ll get the opportunity to put into practice all of the AST 1 skills: route selection, terrain recognition and assessment, group management and safe travel practices and snow study opportunities where appropriate. (Must be on skis or splitboard. Minimum intermediate skier at a ski hill. Must be 18 years of age or older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.)
Instructors and Group Size
Yamnuska AST 1 instructors are ACMG guides and professional members of the Canadian Avalanche Association. They are true practitioners with years of experience in the backcountry, practicing what they preach. Yamnuska has been offering Avalanche courses since the late 1970’s. We have been instrumental in the curriculum development of the AST 1 course and are proud of our rich history in training recreationalists in Canada. We are a Founding Supplier sponsor of Avalanche Canada.
On the field day there is a maximum of 8 participants per instructor.
Dave Stark: Director of Operations for Yamnuska, IFMGA Mountain Guide and Professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association, Avalanche Operations Level 3. Dave has had more than thirty years of experience guiding and teaching avalanche awareness courses.
Jesse de Montigny: IFMGA Mountain guide and professional member of the CAA, Avalanche Operations Level 2. Jesse is the Assistant Director of Operations at Yamnuska.
James Blench: James is a long term senior guide and past Director of Yamnuska. He is a CAA examiner on the Level 2 and 3 CAA certification courses and serves as a subject matter expert for the Canadian Avalanche Association.
Grant Meekins: IFMGA Mountain guide and senior guide at Yamnuska, Grant is a certified teacher and professional member of the CAA, Avalanche Operations Level 2.
Alison Cardinal: An Assistant Ski Guide and professional member of the CAA, Avalanche Operations Level 2, Alison is a passionate backcountry skier and teacher. She is also a representative for Recco avalanche rescue systems.
Canmore courses begin at 9:30am on the Saturday morning at the Yamnuska Office in Canmore. Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore Alberta. See print this map of the location. Please note that the field trip will be to Bow Summit, which is 120km west of Canmore.
Calgary courses begin at 10:00 am on the Saturday morning at the Calgary Mountain Equipment Co-op Building, located at 830, 10th Avenue SW, Calgary. We ask that students attending this course please use the $2-$3 all day parking lots either one block east or west of MEC on 10th Avenue, rather than taking up spaces in MEC’s customer parking lot for the day. Please note that the field trip for the Calgary course will be either Kananaskis Country or Banff National Park west of Calgary.
To keep prices down participants are responsible for their own transport to Calgary, Canmore and on the field days. Canmore is a 1 hour (100 km) drive west from Calgary.
If you are flying from afar for the program we suggest that you rent a car for your visit. In addition to getting you to the program locations, it will allow you to explore our region a bit after program hours. For example you can visit Banff and enjoy the hot pools and sample the numerous restaurants. Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. We can arrange your airport ground transportation at time of booking for an additional charge. Please advise us of your flight information..
Accommodation and Meals
These are not included in the course fees. There are lots of options available including hostels, motels and hotels in Canmore. Do a rate check as prices can vary significantly during the winter.
Food is not supplied. On the classroom day we will take a one hour break for lunch as well as several smaller breaks. Coffee, tea and water are available free of charge at our office for Canmore based courses. We have a microwave oven which students can use to reheat lunches. MEC has multiple cafe’s close by which you can go to, or you may bring your own lunch.
On the field day it is important to have lots of snack type high energy foods as well as at least one litre of fluid. We highly recommend bringing a Thermos type container for a hot drink. Due to the nature of the environment and winter temperatures we will often snack along the way and may not take an extended break for lunch.
Equipment and Clothing
On the first day in the classroom, this is an indoor session, dress casually and comfortably. Yamnuska supplies course manual, Companion Rescue Card and AvaluatorTM. Please bring a pen and notebook. On the field day, Yamnuska will supply an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and avalanche shovel. We also supply group snow study kits and snow saws.
- Skis / Snowshoes: if on skis, either ‘Alpine Touring’ or Telemark are required. We recommend a short (160 – 185 cm) wide ski designed for powder and ski touring. Please see note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Ski poles (even if on snowshoes)
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’ (only required if using skis)
- Ski boots (only required if using skis)
- Day pack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment, 30 liter minimum recommended)
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antennae. If you have an older type, single or double antennae, we recommend you upgrade and will loan you a transceiver
- Avalanche shovel (collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue), loaners available
- Avalanche probe, loaners available
- Sunglasses and/or ski goggles
- Thermos flask and/or water bottle (1 – 2 Liters)
- Sun screen
- Pocket knife
- Small Blister and Personal 1st-Aid Kit
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures uses current state of the art avalanche companion rescue gear on all of our courses. Our avalanche transceivers are Backcountry Access Tracker 2 three antennae beacons. Probes are G3 and metal shovels are Voile Pro.
- Compass with clinometer
- Snow thermometer
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring anyway:
- Snow saw
- Snow Study Kit
On the field day there can be prolonged periods of inactivity in very cold temperatures. Don’t be afraid to bring extra layers as we don’t travel great distances. We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet. Below is our recommended list:
- Long Underwear (top and bottom). They should be synthetic such as Capilene or Merino Wool. Patagonia Capilene and Merino baselayers are good options.
- Warm pants (softshell, insulated, or fleece)
- Warm shirt (not cotton)
- Sweater or fleece jacket
- Insulated jacket or vest. This is essential for staying warm while taking breaks or when the weather gets really cold. The Patagonia Down Fitz Roy jacket is a good example of a warm insulated jacket.
- Waterproof jacket with hood and pants (Gore-Tex or nylon) A hardshell set up is essential when the weather turns really wet. Gore-Tex, H2NO or similar material works great. The Patagonia Torrentshell is a good example of a waterproof hardshell jacket.
- Socks (wool outer, synthetic blend liner). A good pair of socks goes a long way to preventing blisters.
- Wool or fleece hat that covers the ears
- Warm gloves and light glove liner
- Gaiters, only needed if your ski pants are not elasticized at the ankle
Skis, Boots, Boards, Skins & Poles can be rented from:
- Calgary: Mountain Equipment Co-op. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 269-2420)
- Canmore: Gear Up – 1302 Bow Valley Trail (403 678-1636)
*Please note that your ‘DIN’ or ‘Release Value’ settings on your ski bindings are critical to your safety while skiing. Our expectation is that everyone arrives on programs with their ski binding’s release value correctly set. We have noted that due to liability concerns, some ski rental shops will not set release values on touring bindings. We advise you to rent from a shop that will set release values on your ski touring bindings unless you are proficient and comfortable setting your own DIN / release value. Failure to have Release Values correctly set could result in a serious injury.
Please call our office if you have any questions.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require full payment on booking. As a leading avalanche course provider, our courses do fill quickly. Many people book the AST 1 and reserve a spot at the same time for the AST 2 later in the season.
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident while here. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue so long as you have a valid National Park Entry Pass which you can obtain on entry to Banff National Park.
Please make yourself familiar with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
$210 CDN includes instruction, classroom materials, and avalanche safety equipment. You will need to bring adequate clothing and equipment for a backcountry ski tour (or snowshoes). GST is extra.
Special: Book an AST 1 and AST 2 at the same time and receive a 10% discount on both programs!
$175 CDN for the ‘Plus Day’
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
The focus of this program is avalanche theory and instruction via Avalanche Canada’s avalanche skills training curriculum. Our first day will be in the classroom in Calgary or Canmore learning about the conditions and physics that lead to avalanches. This is a full and intensive instructional day that is content-heavy. The second day will be a field trip to a backcountry location where we will be travelling either by backcountry ski gear or snowshoes to a number of different snow study sites. This can involve up to 5 km of travel and up to 250 m of elevation gain. Students must be able to travel on backcountry skis or snow shoes and should have a normal level of fitness.
Participants must be a minimum of 16 years of age and able to provide their own transportation. Otherwise, individuals 14-16 years of age may attend when accompanied by a participating parent or guardian. Our field day is not a backcountry ski day. We have a lot of field curriculum to review so we try to minimize travel and use training locations that are appropriate but quickly accessed. We offer a ‘plus day’ option at the end of each course that allows you to put your newly learned skills to pratical application via a ski touring day trip.
This course is two days of intensive learning. The first day is classroom based and the second day is in the backcountry learning and practicing modern recreational avalanche testing and training skills. It is a fast paced course with a curriculum developed by Avalanche Canada and refined by Yamnuska’s operations team and avalanche instructors. Upon completion of the course you will receive an Avalanche Skills Training 1 Certificate. The AST1 is the prerequisite for the professional level Avalanche Operations Level 1 and our Avalanche Skills Training 2 course.
Advanced Avalanche Training and Theory
This course is the prerequisite for our Avalanche Skills Training 2 advanced reacreational course. If you are a backcountry skier or split boarder, you can join us for this comprehensive 4 day program which includes one day of advanced theory and three days of backcountry touring. We offer this four day program based out of Canmore twice in January, once in February and over two consecutive weekends in March. We also offer this program in Roger’s Pass for those who are advanced backcountry skiers or split boarders.
Further reading and theory: We offer the AST 2 text for sale on our AST 1 programs. If you would like to have a reference manual that goes into more depth of the technical theory behind why avalanches occur, you can purchase the “Staying Alive In Avalanche Terrain” book by Bruce Tremper for an additional $25. Please let us know when you register if you would like this option as supplies are limited and ordered in advance. This book will prepare participants for the AST 2 course.