The Companion Rescue Course curriculum was designed and developed by Avalanche Canada. The course is a perfect choice for those who want to refresh and update their avalanche search and rescue skills. If you recreate or work around avalanche terrain this is the course for you. Every year skiers, hikers, climbers and sledders face the challenge of moving safely in avalanche terrain. This course will enhance your skills and provide you with the necessary tools and approaches to perform effective companion rescue should the need arise.
We will look at preventative measures in avalanche terrain but practice and utilize the avalanche safety gear. You will get lots of practice and instruction in search and rescue with transceivers, probes and shovels. We use digital beacon technology, teach techniques for deep burials, demonstrate how to search without a beacon by identifying likely areas and random spot probing and will update you on new and effective shovel techniques. We will also practice with multiple burials, managing a search and post incident considerations.
Upon completion of the companion rescue course you will receive an updated certificate. This is a great refresher course for anyone who has already taken the AST 1 Course and it has been a while since you practiced companion rescue.
Saturday (At Yamnuska Office in Canmore)
- Introductions, goals and objectives, agenda
- Gear Review: Avalanche Transceivers, Probes, Shovels and airbags
- Companion Rescue: A methodical approach review
- Depart to program area
- Consider and incorporate preventative measures in avalanche terrain.
- Prioritize actions if caught in an avalanche.
- Understand transceiver functions and practice transceiver skills.
- Methodical approach to transceiver searching.
- Apply search and rescue techniques.
- Practice searching without a transceiver.
- Effective shovelling and digging techniques.
- Multiple burial situations.
- Organize a group rescue.
- Identify post-incident considerations.
- Certificates presented
Location at Bow Summit, on Highway 93, 40 km north of Lake Louise or at selected areas of Kananaskis Country or Banff National Park dependant on road and snow conditions.
NOTE ON RISK: The course takes place in the backcountry in a 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.
Instructors & 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 Awareness 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 proud 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.
Steve Blagbrough: IFMGA Mountain guide and senior guide at Yamnuska, Steve is also a professional member of the CAA and Avalanche Operations Level 2. Prior to coming to Canada over ten years ago, Steve was an avalanche forecaster and guide in Scotland.
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 Apprentice 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.
Courses begin at 7:30am on the Saturday morning at the Yamnuska Office in Canmore. Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore Alberta. See this map for location. Please note that the field trip will be to Bow Summit, which is 120km west of Canmore or the Burstall Pass Trail head on the Smith Dorrien Road depending upon road and snow conditions.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore and to the field location. Canmore is a 1 hour (100km) drive west from Calgary.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly. You can find information about accommodation options at http://www.tourismcanmore.com/accommodations/overview as well as on TripAdvisor.
Food is not supplied. 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 do not take an extended break for lunch.
Equipment & Clothing
The Companion Rescue Skills course has a one hour classroom session then the rest of the program is spent at our field location. The program can be done on skis or snowshoes.
- Skis / Snowshoes: if skis, either ‘Alpine Touring’ or Telemark. We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder. Or: Snowshoes. Please ensure these fit to your boots securely. Boots need to be snow-proof and warm. 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)
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment, 30 litre minimum recommended)
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with triple antennae. If you have an older type, single or double antennae, we will loan you a transceiver.
- Spare batteries to fit your Transceiver. Alkaline batteries only.
- 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 state of the art avalanche equipment on all of our courses. Avalanche transceivers are Backcountry Access: Tracker 2. Probes are G3 and shovels are Voile Tele-Pro.
Please let us know in advance if you wish Yamnuska to provide you with an avalanche transceiver, probe or shovel for the field day.
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. We discourage cotton clothing as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
- Synthetic or synthetic/wool blend underwear (top and bottom)
- Warm pants (softshell, insulated, or fleece)
- Sweater or fleece jacket
- Synthetic or down filled Parka
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or water resistant breathable fabric)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or water resistant breathable fabric)
- Socks (wool outer, synthetic blend liner)
- Wool or fleece hat
- Warm gloves and light glove liner
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 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.
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.
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$150 CDN per person. Includes instruction and avalanche safety equipment. Price does not include GST, park entry fees, meals or transportation.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
We recommend that you have had some prior formal avalanche training before taking the Companion Rescue Skills Course. An AST 1 or AST 2, or an equivalent avalanche awareness course will help you to understand and consolidate the skills taught on this program.