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 the 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 in-depth 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 practices inside and outside of our own organization and are committed to developing and promoting avalanche awareness and curriculum in Canada and reducing the number of injuries and fatalities in Canada due to avalanches.
We offer the following programs:
Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 in Canmore and Calgary as well as a classroom session via webinar. (AST 1)
Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 Refresher (AST 1 Refresher)
Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 for Ice Climbers (AST 1 for Ice Climbers)
We provide the transceiver, probe, and shovel for participants if required. We use BCA triple antennae transceivers, metal shovels and collapsible BCA probes for field training.
Thanks to our sponsors at K2 Skis and BCA who have generously donated gear and prizes, participants who take part in an Avalanche Safety Training course or Backcountry Ski public program before February 28, 2023, have the chance to win some incredible gear. So don’t wait…register now!
Field days are conducted at locations within Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, Glacier National Park, and Kananaskis.
Yamnuska avalanche instructors are ACMG and IFMGA guides who are trained and certified by the Canadian Avalanche Association. They are true practitioners with years and in some cases, decades of experience in the backcountry, practicing what they preach. Yamnuska has been offering Avalanche courses since the late 1970s and we have been instrumental in the curriculum development of the AST programs. We are proud of our rich history in training recreationists in Canada.
With over 40 years of 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 discount for the AST 2 does not apply for the AST 2 based at Purcell Lodge.
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 impression: Yamnuska are true professionals!
Grant is an exemplary teacher and coach. He has an excellent way of “de-constructing” the material. And is most helpful when we’re in the field, pointing out and reinforcing classroom material.
For the best snowmobile avalanche training courses check out our friends at Zacs Tracs. The characteristics of avalanche risk are 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.