AST-1 Classic (Custom)

Over 30 years of the best avalanche safety instruction on the North Shore Mountains! Our Classic AST-1 Seymour course is conducted over two days plus self-paced E-learning in advance through our Virtual Classroom and includes practical field-based learning in the backcountry of Mount Seymour Provincial Park. This combo allows us to deliver a solid Avalanche Skills Training course, with our AST-1 exceeding the minimum requirements set by Avalanche Canada for AST-1 courses.

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Canada West Mountain School is an Authorized AST Provider

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2021/22 Custom dates
Custom AST-1 course dates are arranged individually. AST-1 includes self-paced online learning (required).

Pre Requisites:
Basic/Intermediate skiing or snowboarding experience. Skiers and snowboarders should be comfortable skiing/riding down Blue level runs. Ski Touring equipment or snowshoes w/snowboard required. No previous avalanche training is required.
Avi Kit (2 day)
  • Vancouver & Seymour AST-1 Classic Course: $285. + GST
    Included in all Canada West Mountain School AST-1 Classic Seymour courses:

    • 2 days of practical instruction including 1 full day of on-snow back-country training
    • BONUS DAY - all students on an AST-1 Classic Seymour 2021-22 course are eligible to join on a FREE AST Upgrade day during February, March and April. Details to be posted.
    • 2.5 hrs of self-directed online learning through the Canada West Virtual Classroom
    • Avalanche Manual "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook"
    • AST-1 Certificate issued by Avalanche Canada
    • Avaluator V.2 Manual and decision making card
    • Course student handouts and reference materials
    • Access to our "On-Course" Avalanche Safety Gear rentals
    • Use of Snow Science kit (thermometer, screen, loupe, etc)
    • Ongoing free consultation services from Canada West Mountain School
    • 15% off any scheduled AST-2 course with Canada West Mountain School

    Exclusive On-Course Avalanche Safety Equipment rentals:
    Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe rentals are available through Canada West for $40. The Canada West "On-Course" Avi Kit rentals will be supplied directly to you on your course - skip the hassle of going to another shop to pick up or drop off rentals before the course! Rentals must be booked at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering. CWMS On-Course Avi Kit Rentals include Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe for both days of your course.

    NOTE on weather and snow conditions:
    If the snow conditions on Mount Seymour are not suitable for delivering quality field sessions, the practical field sessions may be held on Whistler/Blackcomb. In this event, a Lift Pass will be required for Whistler/Blackcomb and is an additional fee that is not included in the course cost. An additional pass is not required if you already have a ski pass for Whistler/Blackcomb.

    Please click here for our Refund Policy

  • Canada West Mountain School has been offering avalanche skills training courses since 1982 - our 2021/22 season Whistler AST-1 Classic is built on more than 35 years of experience conducting Avalanche Skills safety training to the highest standard possible. For the 2020/21 season, we have incorporated an online learning module through our Virtual Classroom, allowing for greater flexibility and improved learning options, as well as to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

    The Seymour AST-1 Classic course focuses on teaching practical methods of understanding, recognizing and avoiding avalanche hazards, including terrain evaluation, effective decision making, group management, safe route finding, snowpack structure, weather, and avalanche rescue techniques.

    The AST-1 format includes:
    • 7 hours of theory, split between Virtual Online learning and in-person sessions
    • 2 days of training combining outdoor practice, and on-snow field work in the backcountry

    2 Manuals are included in the course (the "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook" and the "Avaluator V.2" decision making guide) and form an integral part of the learning. Our AST-1 course content and materials have been developed and refined over the past 35 years and are based on the nationally-recognized AST-1 curriculum developed by Avalanche Canada.

    Theory topics include:
    • avalanche hazard recognition
    • avalanche terminology
    • decision making and human factors
    • avalanche mechanics
    • mountain weather
    • snowpack structure
    • basic terrain evaluation
    • equipment requirements
    • introduction to Avalanche Companion Rescue

    The initial theory sessions also will prepare you for the practical field sessions, to ensure that your time in the field is used most efficiently.

    Skills and topics covered on the practical field training include:
    • terrain evaluation
    • mountain hazard assessment
    • group management
    • effective decision making in Avalanche Terrain
    • safe route finding techniques
    • snowpack analysis
    • snow testing techniques
    • transceiver searches
    • rescue fundamentals

  • Day-1 Practical Training will be held in an outdoor location in North or West Vancouver. Day-2 practical on-snow field sessions for the AST-1 course will be held in the backcountry behind Mount Seymour unless otherwise noted. Occasionally, alternate locations may be used such as Whistler/Blackcomb if conditions are not suitable. The field session logistics and details will be discussed during the class theory sessions.

    In the event that snowpack and/or weather conditions are such that we cannot conduct a good quality field session on the date for your course on Mt Seymour, or any other North Shore location, the on-snow field sessions may be postponed; or, held at Whistler/Blackcomb in the backcountry. This will require a lift access pass on Whistler/Blackcomb that is not included in the course fee. All other aspects of the course will remain unchanged.

    The decision to move the field sessions may not be made until 1-2 days in advance of the course, in order to assess the most current and updated snowpack and weather conditions.

  • Virtual classroom
    The first portion of the AST-1 course covers the theory required to develop the foundation of Avalanche Safety skills. Due to Covid-19 precautions, our Virtual Classes are set up to deliver the content in an engaging and interactive style and are delivered through a series of Online and Virtual lessons in advance of the practical field portions.

    You will learn the theoretical foundation for AST-1 online, through self-paced learning without joining in a physical classroom with other students. Learning through our Virtual Classroom in a self-paced manner requires about 2-3 hours of your time prior to the field sessions. When you sign in to the Virtual Classroom, Pre-trip planning details will be available in the Online Course materials, with complete details for your specific course date. Pre-trip planning and logistics details will be covered by online segments, email, and phone as needed.

    You will receive instructions on how to access the Online course content after you have registered for your AST-1 course. We are committed to providing the highest degree of online learning experience and flexibility; we welcome and encourage your ongoing feedback as we embark on this new adventure in learning with Canada West!

    Practical Training
    After completing the prerequisite Online Virtual Classroom material, students will meet on Day-1 for an in-person practical training session held outdoors on the North Shore. Start times for Day-1 vary between course dates but typically start as early as 7:30 am and finish by 4:30 pm. Day-1 is not an on-snow session so skis or split boards are not required for the first day. This session will focus on the following:

    • Team and Instructor Introductions, where you will get to know who you will be heading out with
    • Pre-trip planning - weather, snowpack, and terrain objectives for Day-2
    • Avalanche safety gear training and familiarization
    • Avalanche Rescue introduction and transceiver practice
    • Logsitcs planning and final field trip preparation details

    The afternoon of Day-1 will be spent completing the Avalanche Theory in a Live Virtual Zoom Class session. After completion of the outdoor practical training and the final theory class on Day-1, you are ready to get out into the mountains for the on-snow training on Day-2.

    The Day-2 On-Snow field sessions will be held at Mount Seymour. The surge in numbers of visitors to Mount Seymour Park this last 2 seasons has led to severe parking and crowding issues. As a result, we are running our AST practical field session in a manner that helps reduce the impacts on the Park. The most important and valuable learning opportunities for any AST-1 course are the field-based sessions, and our strategy for the remainder of the 2021/22 season will allow us to provide the best possible field sessions

    In order to ensure that our AST students can get up to the trailhead on-time with minimal hassle, and to avoid the possibility of being turned away by BC Parks staff when the park is full (typically this occurs every weekend before 9 am), all Canada West Mountain School AST-1 weekend course will use a chartered shuttle service to drive up and down each day. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, traveling up with a Shuttle service allows our groups to meet at the bottom of the mountain (so no winter tires are required); the Mt Seymour Shuttles have priority access on the drive up, so everyone will arrive on the mountain earlier and together to avoid delays; and, arriving earlier means getting into the backcountry quicker. Full transportation details will be provided in the Field Session Planning Details of the Online Course.

    The practical training sessions are held during a full day of "hands-on" practical learning in the field working on snowpack, terrain, travel, and rescue skills. This on-snow practical field day will take place fully in the backcountry regions of Mount Seymour Provincial Park. All students must be fully prepared for a day of backcountry touring on skis or split boards (or snowshoes, on snowshoe-based AST courses). The Day-2 field session starts with a 6:30 am meeting and typically is finished by 4:30 pm.

    The specific meeting locations and logistics details may vary from one course date to another, please ensure you confirm the correct location for your course date!

    Students are responsible for getting to and from the course meeting location on the North Shore at the base of Mount Seymour. During the class theory sessions in advance of the field training, you will discuss and plan the logistics for the specific meeting points and times for the Practical Field session of your course, though typically the field session will start with a 6:30 am meeting at the base of the Mount Seymour Road

    Students are reminded to plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early to all course sessions, to allow for traffic delays, poor road conditions, parking, etc. The Practical Field sessions will start promptly at the times indicated - latecomers will risk missing the field sessions as once the group has departed there are no options to join them in the field at a later time.

    Virtual Class theory sessions provide an overview of the course and cover the following topics:

    • avalanche hazard recognition
    • avalanche terminology
    • avalanche mechanics
    • mountain weather
    • snowpack structure
    • basic terrain evaluation
    • Weather observations

    The Practical Field session will be spent in the backcountry regions of Mount Seymour Park, where you will have maximum time to focus on learning and practicing skills, including:

    • terrain evaluation
    • mountain hazard assessment
    • safe route finding techniques
    • snowpack analysis
    • snow testing techniques
    • transceiver searches
    • companion rescue review and practice

  • Avalanche Skills Course Gear List - Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Course Gear List

    Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe are required for each person for both days of the course. Canada West Mountain School maintains the largest rental inventory of avalanche safety equipment exclusively for our students. Our "On-Course" Avi Kit Rentals include a Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe for both days of your course.

    Our exclusive On-Course Avalanche Safety Equipment rental program is available for $40. The Canada West "On-Course" Avi Kit rentals will be supplied directly to you on your course - there are no hassles with going to another shop to pick them up or drop them off! Rentals must be booked at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering as they are often booked out by the time the course runs.

    Additionally, everyone needs to be fully prepared for full days out in any/all winter conditions, the course will be conducted in all weather. Please review the Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Skills Course Gear List well before the course start date.

    Proper backcountry touring skis or split-board, with climbing skins, are required for all practical on-snow field sessions; or, snowshoes and carrying a snowboard strapped on a pack. For Snowshoers please, join an AST-1 Snowshoe course in order to use snowshoes only. Please contact our office in advance if you have any questions or concerns about your gear.

  • Questions about Avalanche Skills 1 (AST-1) course

    Do I need to bring special gear?

    What happens if the weather is not good?

    Where are the Vancouver-Mt Seymour AST-1 courses conducted?

    How long are the days?