In this program, we take our avalanche safety course to a lodge-based program. Students gain invaluable field experience at the spectacular Purcell Mountain Lodge west of Golden, BC. This location will have you fully immersed in the backcountry experience by flying you to a remote setting and luxurious lodge. The snow is shared by only a few people at the lodge allowing for untracked powder around every corner. The learning environment is primed for students to gain the advanced skills they are looking for through the avalanche safety course.
As with all our AST 2 programs, the Purcell Mountain Lodge Course will build on your previous avalanche training and push your knowledge to the next level. This is a hands-on course involving extensive practical field experience augmented with classroom theory. The curriculum is designed to give a solid grounding in the essentials of avalanche knowledge based on the requirements set out by Avalanche Canada. Your instructors are guides seasoned in ski touring, heli-skiing, and avalanche forecasting. This course is suitable for those who have taken the AST 1 Avalanche Skills Training Course in Calgary and Canmore (or have equivalent experience) in the past and are intermediate or advanced backcountry skiers or splitboarders.
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!
Day 1: Alpine Helicopter Hangar in Golden, BC at 7:45 am
We meet at the Alpine Helicopters base in Golden, BC to check equipment and have a pre-flight safety briefing before flying into Purcell Mountain Lodge. After settling into the lodge, we will complete an avalanche companion rescue instruction and practice session before heading out on our first ski tour in the area.
Each evening we will cover a short classroom session to give us the base theory needed for our field days. Topics include:
- Avalanche phenomena, formation and characteristics of avalanches
- Avalanche Terrain Recognition, introduction to the detailed Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale
- Changes in mountain snowpack and snow metamorphism
- Accessing and utilizing the Avalanche Danger Scale and Public Avalanche Bulletins
- Understanding snow stability and slab propagation tests
- Using the Avaluator TM
- Backcountry travel preparation and planning
Days 2-4: Field days right at the doorstep of Purcell Mountain Lodge. Evening sessions in the comforts of the lodge will cover additional advanced theory.
There are countless options for ski touring and skill development on our field days. We will use the area to get the best value for learning avalanche skills and finding the best skiing and riding. You will be a part of the trip planning and decision-making process. Your participation in route selection as well as the danger assessments for the day is a critical part of your avalanche education.
Topics for the days include:
- Proper backcountry travel preparation for avalanche terrain
- Practical use of avalanche ‘danger scale’ and other observations
- Avalanche terrain recognition
- Route finding in avalanche terrain
- Practical use of the Avalauator 2 TM
- Weather, snowpack, and avalanche activity observations
- Snow profiles and stability tests such as the Compression and Extended Column tests
- Snow stability and avalanche danger analysis
- Decision making in avalanche terrain
- Group management and safety in the backcountry
- Human Factors in decision making
- Companion rescue skills including avalanche transceiver use, single and multiple burials, shovelling and probing techniques
- Evening sessions will be used to introduce additional topics and review the day’s learning
Day 5: Flight day – Purcell Mountain Lodge to Golden.
Our flight time of 9:30 am will land us back in Golden, BC where we finish an excellent learning experience in the mountains.
Instructors & Group Size
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.
The Purcell Mountain Lodge AST 2 has a maximum of 8 participants per instructor with a minimum of 6.
We will meet at the Alpine Helicopters Hangar in Golden, BC at 7:45 am (MST) on day 1.
After introductions and an equipment check, we will be briefed on helicopter safety and have a scenic 15-minute flight from Golden to Purcell Mountain Lodge.
After settling into the lodge, we will complete an avalanche companion rescue instruction and practice session before heading out on our first ski tour in the area.
Each evening we will cover a short classroom session to give us the base theory needed for our field days
The next three days will be spent in the backcountry areas around the lodge.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Golden, BC. Golden is a 2-hour (165km) drive west from Canmore. Helicopter transport to and from Purcell Mountain Lodge is included.
If you are flying from afar for the program, we suggest that you rent a car for your visit.
Please note that program venues may be within National Parks and/or Kananaskis Country. For programs where transportation is not provided by Yamnuska/Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska, guests will be required to purchase their own pass.
National Park passes are available both online at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission and in-person at National park gates and some information centres.
Kananaskis Country conservation passes are available online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx
Accommodation and Meals
Purcell Mountain Lodge has been in operation for 27 years and is located in the Northern Purcell Mountains at 2200 meters. The luxury backcountry lodge is situated at treeline with stunning views into the Selkirk Mountains to the West and North. They take pride in offering guests a truly unique and unforgettable mountain experience. After a day of adventure, guests can relax and unwind in their three-story, timber-framed lodge. Rooms are located on the upper floor and all come with mountain views that are guaranteed to inspire and refresh. Each room has its own sink and vanity and across the hallway, you will find three private hot showers and three private bathrooms. Luxury in the backcountry is complete with an open dining area, cozy living room, cedar wood-burning sauna, quiet library, entertaining traditional board games and puzzles, and wood-burning fireplace.
Four nights’ accommodations at Purcell Mountain Lodge are included. Choose from single or double occupancy. There is an additional charge for single occupancy.
We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations in Golden, BC if needed.
All meals are included from buffet lunch on day 1 to departure breakfast on day 5. Purcell Mountain Lodge’s gourmet chef will prepare fresh, wholesome mountain-inspired meals. The Lodge can cater to each guest by accommodating any special dietary restrictions or allergy concerns. Delicious appetizers are served each day after skiing with a cold beer, or a glass of signature BC wine from their bar selection. Alcoholic beverages are an additional cost.
Note: Should we be unable to fly into Purcell Lodge on the scheduled day, any additional costs for accommodation or meals are not covered.
Due to helicopter capacity guests are permitted 25lbs of personal luggage, plus a day pack with extra ski clothing and their ski equipment. Luggage should be packed in a small to medium-sized duffle bag (traditional suitcases are not appropriate). Please note that guests will be asked to wear ski boots and helmets on the flight in order to reduce baggage space.
Equipment & Clothing
Yamnuska supplies classroom materials: course manual (Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain), Companion Rescue Card, Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain field book, and Backcountry Terrain Rating sheets. Please bring a notebook and pen as well as your Avaluator TM from the AST 1 course. On the field days, Yamnuska will supply, upon request, an avalanche transceiver with batteries, an avalanche probe, and an avalanche shovel. We also supply group snow study kits and snow saws.
You will need to bring:
Skis & Splitboard
Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding that allows the heel to lift whilst going uphill or across the flats and then locks down to become like a regular downhill binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background in downhill skiing.
Splitboards – If boarding you need to be an advanced boarder and you must use a ‘splitboard’. A snowboard and snowshoe combination is not acceptable. Please don’t bring a board if you’ve never boarded in the backcountry before. Poles are essential for boarders.
- Skis/Splitboards: We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder. Snowboards must be splitboards. Please see the note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Ski poles (for splitboarders as well)
- Climbing skins
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment, 35L minimum recommended)
- Avalanche transceiver – a triple antennae digital transceiver. If you have an older style, single or double antennae, we will loan you a transceiver for the program.
- Avalanche shovel (collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue, loaners available on request).
- Avalanche probe (loaners available on request).
- Avaluator TM
- Sunglasses and/or ski goggles
- Thermos flask and/or water bottle (1 – 2 Liters)
- Small Blister and Personal 1st-Aid Kit
- Personal Toiletries including hand sanitizer
- Headlight with extra batteries
- Helmet (recommended)
- Sleeping bag/blanket or duvet (please keep size to a sleeping bag sized package)
- Personal towels
- Compass with clinometer
- Snow thermometer
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring if you have:
- Snow saw
- Snow Study Kit
On the field days, there can be prolonged periods of inactivity in very cold temperatures. We recommend bringing extra layers. 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.
- Long Underwear (top and bottom). They should be synthetic such as Capilene or Merino Wool. Patagonia Capilene and Merino base layers 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 setup is essential when the weather turns really wet. Gore-Tex, H2NO or similar material works great. The Patagonia Torrent shell is a good example of a waterproof hardshell jacket.
- Socks (wool outer, synthetic blend liner). A good pair of socks goes a long way in preventing blisters. (3 pairs)
- Wool or fleece hat that covers the ears
- Face Mask
- Warm gloves and light glove liner
- Casual clothing for inside the lodge. Keep this to a minimum. Towels and linens are provided by Purcell Lodge.
- Bathing suit for the sauna
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)
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports – (1-866-929-3636)
*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 a 35% deposit (including taxes) at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
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.
Please familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. 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 travellers 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, 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 trip.
$2795 CDN includes a return flight from Golden, BC to Purcell Mountain Lodge, double occupancy accommodation at Purcell Lodge, food from Lunch on day 1 to breakfast on day 5, instruction, materials and use of avalanche safety and snow study equipment. GST, PST and BC Room Tax are extra.
Additional $500 CND for a single room supplement.
Not included: Transport to and from Golden, BC, food or accommodation before and after the course, alcoholic beverages (can be purchased at Purcell Lodge), and gratuities. Additional costs incurred should we be unable to fly into Purcell Lodge on the scheduled day are not included.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
Is it for you?
Guests should be intermediate to advanced downhill skiers or splitboarders and should have had backcountry skiing/riding experience before the course. ‘Intermediate to Advanced’ means that you are comfortable making parallel turns on most ungroomed blue to black diamond terrain at a ski hill and that you have the ski skills to deal safely with all but the most extreme terrain. This should not be your first backcountry skiing trip and you will need to be efficient in using your ski touring or splitboarding equipment. In the Yamnuska context, a minimum would be prior participation on our Intro to Backcountry Skiing, Wapta Traverse Hut to Hut Ski Tour, Intro to Ski Mountaineering or trips with additional personal days of touring totalling approximately 5-7 days.
You also need to be in good aerobic shape, as you must ‘skin’ up everything you ski down. On the field days, you should expect full days of touring up to 10km return and 500-900m of elevation gain. This will be with a daypack containing your lunch, water, avalanche gear, and spare clothing. We also offer this program based out of our office in Canmore, Alberta. See here for details.
This program is limited to participants 19 years and older unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and in which case approval must be given by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
Previous avalanche training is not required, however, to receive your AST 2 certificate you must have taken an AST 1 with Yamnuska or another approved Avalanche Canada AST provider in the past.