AST-1 Classic Snowshoe BCMC

Our  AST-1 Classic for Snowshoers for BCMC members is an Avalanche Skills course designed specifically for snowshoers traveling in the backcountry. The same technical content is covered on all Canada West Avalanche Skills courses, but we recognise that snowshoers often choose different terrain and routes. Our specially developed curriculum focuses on the unique needs of snowshoers who want to ensure they are staying safe from avalanches while in the backcountry. Based in North Vancouver and Mount Seymour.

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Canada West Mountain School is an Authorized AST Provider

2021/22 Snowshoe AST dates
If the date you choose is unavailable, please contact our office for wait-list options
Private dates can also be arranged.
Pre Requisites:
Previous snowshoeing experience. No previous avalanche training required.
Avi Kit (2 day)
  • Vancouver AST-1 Classic Snowshoers BCMC Course: $230. + 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 backountry training
    • 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 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 time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering. CWMS On-Course Avi Kit Rentals include Mammut Barryvox Transceiver, G3 Shovel and G3 Probe for both days of your course.

    NOTE on weather and snow conditions:
    If the snow conditions on Mount Seymour are not suitable for the Day-2 field session, alternate locations may be used. These may include Diamond Head or Callaghan Valley areas if suitable. If no locations are available on your course date due to poor snow conditions, field dates may be postponed (class theory session day will proceed as scheduled).

    Please click here for our Cancellation and Transfer Policy

  • Canada West Mountain School has been offering avalanche skills training courses since 1982 - our 2021/22 season AST-1 Classic is built on more than 35 years of experience conducting Avalanche Skills safety training to the highest standard possible.

    The 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
    • 10 hours of practical fieldwork

    2 Manuals are included in the course (Avalanche Skills Training Handbook and the Avaluator V.2) 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 session also will prepare you for the practical field sessions so that your time in the field is used most efficiently.

    Skills and topics covered on the practical field sessions 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

    At the end of the course, our Instructors conduct a "wrap up" session that we feel is a critical aspect of all Canada West Mountain School AST programs, as this allows students an opportunity to "put all the pieces together" before heading out on your own. During this session, you are encouraged to discuss with your instructor the content that has been covered, and to have the instructor assess your level of knowledge - we would prefer that you know your abilities now, rather than finding out the hard way, later!

  • The 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 due to conditions on the North Shore mountains. You will receive final meeting and location details in advance during the online Virtual Theory training sessions

    In the event that snowpack and/or weather conditions are such that we cannot conduct good quality field sessions on your course at any of our field locations, we will allow all students to re-schedule for a future AST-1 Snowshoers field session date of their choice. The decision to postpone the field sessions may not be made until 1-2 days in advance of the course dates, to allow for the latest snow and weather reports.

  • All Instructors on our Avalanche courses are Active or Professional Members of the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) and hold Level I or Level II Professional Certification with the CAA. Additionally, Canada West Mountain School staff are dedicated educators who are experienced in teaching these skills and conducting well run, professional courses.

    All CWMS staff also attend regular Industry training and have advanced 1st aid training, and many of the Instructors in our Avalanche Training program are also professional Guides certified through the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides).

    Visit Guides and Instructors Page for complete details and background on each of our Guide Team.

  • 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. There may also be a 1-hour virtual Zoom class meeting on a mid-week evening before Weekend courses. When you sign in for the Virtual Classroom, Pre-trip planning details will be available indicating if an optional Zoom session is included. Otherwise, the material 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 and the evening Live Zoom Session, students will meet on Day-1 for an in-person practical training session held outdoors on the North Shore. 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 practices
    • Logsitcs planning and final field trip preparation details

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

    The Day-2 On-Snow field sessions will be held on Mount Seymour. The surge in numbers of visitors to Mount Seymour Park this season 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 2020-21 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 students will be asked to use the Mount Seymour Shuttle service (cost of the shuttle is included in the course fee). 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 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 areas 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
    • rescue review and practice

    The final wrap up is an important aspect of Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Skills Training courses, as this allows students an opportunity to "put all the pieces together" after the field sessions have finished. At the end of your course, you are encouraged to discuss with your instructor the content that has been covered, and to have the instructor assess your level of knowledge - we would prefer that you know your abilities now, rather than find out the hard way, later!

  • Avalanche Skills Course Gear List: Please review this gear list in advance of your AST-1 Classic Snowshoers course to ensure you are properly prepared - 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 the Mammut Barryvox Transceiver, G3 Shovel and G3 Probe for both days of your course.

    Our exclusive On Course Avi Kit rentals will be supplied directly to you on your course - avoid the hassles of going to another shop to pick them up or drop them off! Rentals must be booked at time of AST Course Registration as they are often booked out by the time the course runs - just select "Avi Kit" when registering for each person.

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

    Proper backcountry snowshoes and good footwear are required for the Day-2 field session; ski poles are recommended.

    Important Gear note for Day-1 of your course:
    During the afternoon field session on Day-1 you will require a transceiver, shovel, probe and a small pack, as well as be prepared for being outdoors in any weather conditions for 1-2 hours, including footwear and clothing that is appropriate for walking and standing in snow and wet conditions, as you will be outside in any/all conditions for up to 2-3 hours. Snowshoes are not required for Day-1.

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

    Do I need to bring special gear?

    What happens if the weather or snow conditions are not good?

    Where are the AST-1 courses conducted?

    How long are the days?