Our mountain school curriculum is designed to make you a competent mountaineer. We believe this is best done in the mountains and not in a classroom or campus setting.
Leadership: Regardless of whether you are out with friends or if you are a guide, your leadership skills are an important ingredient of your success and safety in the mountains. Leadership development is an important part of the program and it is imbedded in all sections.
Backpacking & Adventure Hiking: Navigation and route finding in challenging terrain, river crossing and camping skills will all be covered during this section. We are also keen advocates of the Leave No Trace principal which will be introduced on this section and which will remain a constant thread throughout the semester (Fall Semester only).
Rock Climbing: In the spring and fall rock climbing is taught at one of the best climbing venues in Canada:Banff National Park or Skaha, BC. The huge variety of climbing makes it an ideal place to learn "sport" and "traditional" climbing techniques including leading and gear placements.
Ice Climbing: We have some of the best ice climbing in the world on our doorstep. The Canadian Rockies are world renowned for their ice climbing and we will conduct much of the training in the heart of it near the Columbia Icefields. We will teach you how to move on steep ice using all of the specialized equipment, advanced climbing techniques and placing and removing ice protection. We will be covering "mixed climbing" and you'll find 'dry tooling' a sure way to get you 'pumped'.
Mountaineering:Training takes place in some of the most remarkable terrain in the world. We teach you how to climb on snow, ice and alpine rock plus instruct you in glacier travel, crevasse rescue, route finding and navigation. All of this is combined with the ascent of several peaks. The final mountaineering expedition gives you the chance to organize and lead the trip under the watchful eye of our certified guides.
Backcountry Skiing: As with ice climbing we have world class backcountry skiing in the Canadian Rockies and in the Selkirk Range just to the west. Winter route finding, avalanche hazard assessment, glacier travel and winter camping skills are all covered. Canada is a world leader in avalanche training and Canadian Avalanche Association sanctioned certificates will be awarded on successful completion.
Rescue: We will introduce you to more rope rescue techniques and to the advanced skills needed to extract victims from remote settings and steep terrain. Invaluable knowledge to have in the mountains.
Wilderness First Responder: Part of the Semester is a professional level wilderness first aid course. The Wilderness First Responder Certificate course is run delivered by Rocky Mountain Adventure Medicine, North America's leading provider of wilderness 1st aid training. This 80 hour program trains you to deal with the treatment and evacuation of casualties in a remote setting. You will be certified with the industry standard for outdoor professionals. Ffor those looking to additionally use the certification for a worksite, the certification can be recognized by Alberta Workplace Health and Safety. This training will then offer mobility between Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon. To be eligible for this type of certification participants MUST provide proof of Standard First Aid certification that was taken within the year prior to the start of the Advanced Adventure Medic program. This is the exact same curriculum and exams, however the Standard First Aid pre-requisite must be met for recognition by the Alberta Workplace Health and Safety.
Components of the Mountain Skills Semester
Mountain Hiking (Fall Semester Only)
Our introductory session for the semester will set the stage for travel in the mountains. This section will cover trip planning, navigational skills, map, compass and GPS. Food planning and preparation, Leave No Trace ethics, camping skills, cooking skills, group travel, hazard recognition and risk management, bear and predator awareness. The bonds that will last a lifetime are forged during this trip.
*Apprentice Interpreter Course, Interpretive Guides Association (IGA)
The Apprentice Interpreter Course is a 2-day program that is designed for students who are relatively new to interpretive guiding. It gives a basic introduction to effective interpretation skills, local natural history, cultural history and park management. This course is perfect for getting an overview of the Canadian Rockies and learning about basic guiding techniques.
Apprentice Hiking Guide
Successful completion of the two day IGA Apprentice Interpreter program combined with our MSS certification will result in an Apprentice Hiking Guide certification recognized by Parks Canada and is a requirement for day hiking guides working in the Parks.
Rock Climbing Mecca!
The rock climbing section covers the broad spectrum of climbing techniques. We start with the introductory skills of site safety, risk assessment, rope management, belaying, movement on rock and then progress as skills and confidence build. Over the duration of this section we will cover top-roped climbing, lead climbing, sport & Trad climbing, multi-pitch climbing, alpine scrambling and rock rescue. This is a comprehensive skills section that moves at the pace of the individual climber and builds on both beginner and intermediate skills alike.
Taking our previous skills we move to vast and steep glaciated terrain. Our comprehensive skills section on alpine mountaineering is campsite based in view of to the glaciers and peaks of the Columbia Icefields. It is here that you will learn safe travel techniques and crevasse rescue skills on the largest icefields of Banff and Jasper National Park. Skills days will be interspersed with long mountaineering days on such objectives as Mt. Athabasca 3474m and others.
On the summit... Canadian Rockies
An opportunity to take the skills acquired and through the expert oversight of mountain guides and lead an expedition to one of the 11,000 ft. peaks of the Canadian Rockies. The Alpine Expedition is a group led trip interspersed with instruction, coaching and guide mentorship. This gives participants the chance to test skills and new knowledge in an expedition setting. This is one of the more challenging and rewarding trips and is the culminating trip of the Spring semester.
*Wilderness First Responder - Rocky Mountain Adventure Medicine (RMAM)
This is an 80-hour theoretical and practical course on advanced wilderness first aid and medical emergencies. An industry standard course, our advanced adventure medic program is approved and recognized by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, American Mountain Guides Association, Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC and Alberta Workplace Health and Safety as the minimum requirement to progress into the outdoor recreation guiding profession.
*Avalanche Skills Training 1 (AST1)
A two-day course based on curriculum developed by the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC). One day in the classroom covering the theory behind the weather and avalanche phenomena, coupled with a practical touring day introducing the skills of snow pack analysis, companion and group rescue, terrain recognition skills as well as safe travel practice. This is the primary basis of traveling safely in the winter mountain environment and is a pre-requisite for professional avalanche training with the CAC.
On-Piste Ski Skills
During the winter portion of the semester we will spend a day in Lake Louise or Banff at one of the ski hills tuning up ski skills with intensive coaching and practice. This day will help set the stage for the backcountry skiing portion of the semester.
Ski mountaineering on Wapta Icefields, D. Waag.
Our backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering sections are designed to provide students with the skills they need to travel safely in the winter backcountry environment. We cover the basic techniques required for winter camping and survival as well as the specific skills needed to safely traverse glaciers, ski mountaineer to climb peaks, and route find in avalanche terrain. Most students with intermediate skiing abilities can build their skills and progress on to ski instructor training at the end of this section.
Waterfall Ice Climbing and Mixed Climbing
Our intent for this section is to allow the student to learn and use safe winter climbing practices in order to become a proficient climber on frozen waterfalls and in mixed terrain. Many of the world's best ice climbers have learned and progressed on the famous ice climbs of the Canadian Rockies. This section will introduce students to the technical skills required for top rope, lead and multi-pitch ice climbing in this world class area. Safe winter practices such as route finding, evaluating avalanche conditions and hazard management will be discussed. This is an excellent section in which students will progress according to their own comfort and physical ability levels.
*Avalanche Skills Training 2 (AST 2 - advanced avalanche awareness)
The Avalanche Skills Training 2 course takes place in Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains. An area famous for its deep snowpack and world class backcountry skiing, Rogers Pass has the largest avalanche control program for highways and the railway in all of North America. This is an ideal location to learn about traveling in avalanche terrain and making the right decisions for personal and group safety.
The primary focus of the trip will be on advanced avalanche awareness, however integral to the section is advanced backcountry ski techniques, travel and powder skiing, snow shelter building and winter camping skills. This is the culminating trip of the Fall semester.
* Denotes a certification that the student will receive during the program which can be used for future employment in the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism field. Certification is subject to meeting the governing body standards.