AST-1 Classic Snowshoe

Our  AST-1 Classic for Snowshoers is an Avalanche Skills course designed specifically for snowshoers travelling in the backcountry. The same technical content is covered on all Canada West Avalanche Skills courses, but we recognize 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

2023-24 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 Course: $295. + 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 backcountry training
    • BONUS DAY - all students on Canada West Mountain School AST-1 courses are eligible to join on a FREE AST Refresher course during 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 AST-2 for Snowshoers courses 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 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 2023-24 season AST-1 Classic is built on more than 40 years of experience conducting Avalanche Skills safety training to the highest standard possible. Our courses include a unique and enhanced online learning module through our Virtual Classroom, allowing for greater flexibility and improved learning options.

    The Seymour AST-1 Classic Snowshoers 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 and are an integral part of the course content:
    • the "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook"
    • the "Avaluator V.2" decision making guide"

    Our AST-1 course content and materials have been developed and refined over the past 40 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

  • 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. Our Virtual Classes are set up to deliver the content in an engaging and interactive style and are delivered through a series of Online Virtual lessons in advance of the in-person classes and practical field sessions.

    You will learn the theoretical foundation for AST-1 online through self-paced learning modules. Learning through our Virtual Classroom in a self-paced manner requires about 3 hours of your time prior to the 2-day course dates. When you sign in to the Virtual Classroom, course planning details will be available in the Virtual Class materials as well. The course planning and logistics details will be covered by online segments, email, and phone as needed.

    You will receive instructions on how to register and access the Virtual Classroom online course content after you have registered for your AST 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
    The first day of the practical training is an in-person training day combining interactive and engaging class sessions with an emphasis on group activities; and, practical outdoor training sessions. The Day-1 training is held at one of our training locations in Vancouver, West Vancouver, or North Vancouver. Start times for Day-1 vary between course dates but typically start as early as 7:30 am and finish by 4:30 pm. Specific locations and meeting times will be sent out in advance of each course date.

      The Day-1 session will focus on the following:
    • Team and Instructor Introductions
    • Trip planning
    • Terrain assessment
    • Decision making in Avalanche terrain
    • Interpretation and application of Avalanche Bulletins
    • Avalanche safety gear training and familiarization
    • Avalanche Rescue introduction and transceiver practice
    • Pre-trip planning and logistics for Day-2

    Day-1 is not an on-snow session, so ski, split boards or snowshoes are not required for the first day

    The On-Snow practical field session will be held at Mount Seymour. The surge in numbers of visitors to Mount Seymour Park 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 and some course dates may require using a shuttle bus service to access the backcountry course area. Final details are arranged during the week prior to each AST-1 date.

    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 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.

  • 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

    Avalanche Safety Gear and Rentals
    A Transceiver (digital 3-antennae model), Avalanche shovel, and Avalanche probe are required for each person. Please review your transceiver operating instructions before arriving on your course, and double-check battery strength.

    If you require Avalanche Safety Gear, Canada West Mountain School maintains a large rental inventory of avalanche safety equipment exclusively for our students. Our "On-Course" Avi Kit Rentals are only $40 for a 2-day AST course and include a Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe for both days of your course. 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! Please book your rentals at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering as they are often booked out by the time the course runs.

    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 the 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?