AST-1 for Snowshoers

Our Snowshoe AST-1 course is 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.

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Canada West Mountain School is an Authorized AST Provider

2018-2019 Season 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)
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  • Snowshoe Avalanche Skills Training 1 (AST-1): $245. + GST
    Included in all Canada West Mountain School AST-1 courses:
    • 2 days AST-1 course instruction
    • AST-1 Certificate
    • Avalanche Manual "Backcountry Avalanche Awareness"
    • Avaluator V.2 Manual and decision making card
    • Course student handouts and reference materials
    • Use of Snow Science kit (thermometer, screen, loupe, etc)
    • Ongoing free consultation services from Canada West Mountain School
    • 50% off future Avalanche Refresher courses with Canada West Mountain School
    Avalanche Safety Equipment rentals
    $30. (optional, Avi gear can be supplied by student)
    CWMS Rentals Include: Transceiver, G3 Shovel and G3 Probe for both days of 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 due to snow conditions, field dates may be postponed.

    Please click here for our Cancellation and Transfer Policy

  • The morning of Day-1 is spent learning and reviewing essential Avalanche Safety theory, with a practical field session in the afternoon covering Avalanche Rescue, equipment use and group management in Avalanche Terrain.

    Day-2 is a full day of "hands-on" practical learning in the field working on snowpack, terrain, travel and rescue skills.

  • On day-1, the first class session will be held at one of our Classrooms. Most dates the class will be held at either our office/classroom at #240-400 Brooksbank Ave, North Vancouver (1 block up from MEC); or, at the West Vancouver Cricket Club in Hugo Ray Park, 1290 3rd St, West Vancouver.

    You will receive email instructions 2-3 days in advance of the course for the specific meeting points for the first day of your course. The first day of the course includes both indoor and outdoor sessions and will finish by 4 pm.

    Canada West Mountain School main office & classroom
    240-400 Brooksbank Ave, North Vancouver (1 block up from MEC)

    Classroom location for West Vancouver Cricket Club/Hugo Ray Park
    1290 Third Street, West Vancouver

    You will receive final meeting and location details for the class in advance, though typically this class will start at 0815 on Day-1 of the course dates, at one of the two locations noted above.

    The field sessions are held in the backcountry behind Mount Seymour. Occasionally, alternate locations may be used such as Whistler/Blackcomb, Diamond Head near Squamish, or the Coquihalla Pass near Hope.

    In the event that snowpack and/or weather conditions are such that we cannot conduct a good quality field session on day 2 of your course at any of our field locations, we will allow all students to re-schedule onto a future AST-1 Snowshoers field session date of their choice. The decision to postpone the day-2 field session 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.

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

    On day-1, the first session usually is held at our Classroom located at #240-400 Brooksbank Ave, North Vancouver (1 block up from MEC) at 0815, unless other arrangements are made at the time of registration. You will receive email instructions a few days in advance of the course for the specific meeting points for the first day of your course. The first day of the course includes both indoor and outdoor sessions. The Day-1 class session will finish between 4:00 and 5:00 pm.

    The Day-2 field session logistics (location, meeting times, gear, etc) will be arranged during the first day, but please plan on a 7:45 am start time and a finish time of 5 pm. Day-2 is usually held on Mt Seymour, though in cases of poor snow conditions, alternate locations may be used.

    Students are reminded to plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early to the course sessions, to allow for traffic delays, poor road conditions, parking, etc. The 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.

    Our format includes 7 hours of theory and 10 hours of practical fieldwork, spread over 2 days of instruction. Manuals are included in the course and form an integral part of the learning. Our AST-1 course content and materials have been developed over the past 30 years and are based on the nationally-recognized AST-1 curriculum developed by Avalanche Canada.

    Theory topics include:
    avalanche hazard recognition
    avalanche terminology
    avalanche mechanics
    mountain weather
    snowpack structure
    basic terrain evaluation
    equipment requirements

    The initial theory session also will prepare you for the field sessions so that your time in the field is used most efficiently.

    Your field days are spent in the backcountry 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 fundamentals

    The final wrap up sessions are an important aspect of Canada West Mountain School programs, as this allows students an opportunity to "put all the pieces together" in a classroom session 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!

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

    You will require an Avalanche Safety kit (avalanche transceiver/beacon, collapsible avalanche shovel, and a probe) and day pack to hold all your gear. In addition, everyone needs to be fully prepared for a day out in winter conditions. Canada West Mountain School has Avalanche Safety Kits available for rent, please book this at time of registration as they are often booked out by the time the course runs.

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

    Important note for Day-1 of your course:
    During the afternoon field session on Day-1 you will require 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. You will not require Snowshoes on Day-1.

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